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The Riley surname originally appeared in Gaelic as O Raghailligh, which means descendant of Raghallach.

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The surname Riley was first found in County Cavan. They were known as the Princes of East Breffny, descended from Raghallaigh, Prince of Breffny in 981. They maintained their territory during the Anglo/ Norman invasion of Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, in 1172, but Sir John O'Reilly, Prince of Breffny surrendered the principality to Queen Elizabeth I thereby ensuring that his territories remained intact.

A name was often recorded during the Middle Ages under several different spelling variations during the life of its bearer because literacy was rare there was no real push to clearly define any of the languages found in the British Isles at that time. Variations found of the name Riley include O'Reilly, O'Reilley, O'Reily, O'Rielly, O'Riely, O'Riley, O'Rilley, Reel and many more.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Riley research. Another 189 words (14 lines of text) covering the years 1598, 1669, 1630, 1695, 1689, 1640, 1703, 1689, 1646 and 1691 are included under the topic Early Riley History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

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Notable amongst the family name at this time was Count John O'Reilly; Edmund O'Reilly (1598-1669), Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh; Hugh Reily (Reilly or O’Reilly) (c.1630-1695) Irish Member of Parliament for Cavan Borough in the Patriot...

Another 35 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Riley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

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Death and immigration greatly reduced Ireland's population in the 19th century. For the native Irish people poverty, hunger, and racial prejudice was common. Therefore, thousands left their homeland to seek opportunity in North Ameri ca. Those who survived the journey and the quarantine camps to which they arrived, were instrumental towards building the strong developing nations of the United States and the future Canada. By far, the largest influx of Irish settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. These were employed as construction or factory workers. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has shown early immigrants bearing the name Riley:

Riley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Elizabeth Riley, aged 18, arrived in Virginia in 1635
  • Garrett Riley, aged 24, landed in Virginia in 1635
  • Miles Riley, aged 20, landed in Virginia in 1635
  • Richard Riley, who arrived in Virginia in 1649

Riley Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Henry Riley, who landed in Rowley, Massachusetts in 1710
  • Terence Riley, who arrived in Pennsylvania, Virginia or Maryland in 1773

Riley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Johan Riley, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1803
  • Nancy Riley, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1811
  • Hugh Riley, aged 26, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Edward Cost Riley, who landed in New York in 1820
  • Martin Riley, who landed in New York in 1822
  • ...

Riley Settlers in United States in the 20th Century

  • Anthony Riley, who arrived in Wisconsin in 1922

Riley Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Corns Riley, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750

Riley Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • Margaret Riley, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1828
  • Catherine Riley, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1832
  • Samuel Riley, aged 48, a farmer, arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Edward Reid" in 1833
  • Bartholomew Riley, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1840
  • Bernard Riley, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1841
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Riley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Thomas Riley, English convict from London, who was transported aboard the "Albion" on September 21, 1826, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • James Riley, English convict from Chester, who was transported aboard the "America" on April 4, 1829, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • William Riley, English convict from London, who was transported aboard the "Argyle" on March 5th, 1831, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Austraila
  • Ezra Riley arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Navarino" in 1837
  • Patrick Riley, English convict from Liverpool, Lancaster, who was transported aboard the "Anson" on September 23, 1843, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia
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Riley Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • John Riley, aged 28, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842
  • Mary Riley, aged 36, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842
  • William Riley, aged 9, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842
  • Mary Ann Riley, aged 5, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842
  • John Riley, aged 1, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842
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  • John Patrick "Jack" Riley (1920-2016), American ice hockey player and coach, hockey coach at West Point (1950-1986), gold medal coach of the United States team at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics
  • Chris Riley (b. 1982), American soccer player
  • Chris Riley (b. 1973), American PGA golfer, ranked in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings
  • Steve Riley (b. 1956), American rock drummer for Roadmaster, Steppenwolf, and more recently L.A. Guns
  • James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916), American writer, poet, and best selling author, best known for his works "Little Orphant Annie" and "The Raggedy Man"
  • Herbert Douglas Riley (1904-1973), American vice admiral of the United States Navy
  • Philip L. Riley, American Democrat politician, Candidate for Wisconsin State Assembly from Bayfield County, 1940
  • Philip T. Riley, American politician, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, 1965
  • Phillip A. Riley, American Democrat politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from New York 10th District, 1914
  • Randall Riley, American Republican politician, Candidate in primary for Texas State House of Representatives 47th District, 1996
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Riley Historic Events



Empress of Ireland

  • Mr. John Riley, British Seaman from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking on May 29th 1914

HMAS Sydney II

  • Mr. Edwin Martin Riley (1923-1941), Australian Ordinary Seaman from Laidley, Queensland, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II on the 19th November 1941 and died during the sinking

HMS Hood

  • Mr. George P Riley (b. 1916), English Stoker 1st Class serving for the Royal Navy from Birmingham, England, who sailed into battle on the HMS Hood and died on 24th May 1941 in the sinking

RMS Lusitania

  • Miss Sutcliffe Riley, American 3rd Class passenger from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking by escaping in life boat 13
  • Mr. Edward Riley, American 3rd Class passenger from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking
  • Mrs. Annie Riley, American 3rd Class passenger from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking
  • Miss Ethel Riley, American 3rd Class passenger from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking by escaping in life boat 13
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  • Reilly of Ballintlea by Joseph F. Reilly.
  • Petty, Of England & Virginia; Wright of Virginia, Kentucky, & Missouri by Gerald McKinney Petty.
  • Indiana Kindred: A Record of the Riley Family and their Kinfolk of Boone & Switzerland Counties, Indiana by Frederick Glenn Riley.
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Citations



    Other References

    1. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
    2. MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland 3rd Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1978. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2278-0).
    3. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
    4. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1970. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
    5. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
    6. Land Owners in Ireland. Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1203-3).
    7. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
    8. Donovan, George Francis. The Pre-Revolutionary Irish in Massachusetts 1620-1775. Menasha, WI: Geroge Banta Publsihing Co., 1932. Print.
    9. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
    10. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. Print.
    11. ...

    The Riley Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Riley Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

    This page was last modified on 23 July 2016 at 10:52.

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