Donley History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Today's Irish surnames are underpinned by a multitude of rich histories. The name Donley originally appeared in Gaelic as O Donnghaile, derived from the words "donn," which means "brown," and "gal," which means "valor."

Early Origins of the Donley family

The surname Donley was first found in County Donegal. Later, the sept expanded eastward and became based at Ballydonnelly in the county of Tyrone. The name continues to be common in this area of Ireland today.

The name is believed to be directly descended from King Niall of the Nine Hostages, the great Irish general/king who died by the River Seine in France about 365 A.D., after soundly defeating the Romans and being instrumental in their return to the south. Niall made King Arthur's exploits seem rather small by comparison.

The Donnelly chief was always elected Chief Marshall of the O'Neill forces and their exploits have filled the pages of Irish history compiled by the Four Masters. They are a part of the great Clann Eoghan(Owen).

They claim to be seventeenth in descent from the great King Niall, and their territories were at Ballydonnelly in County Tyrone.

Early History of the Donley family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Donley research. Another 111 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1603, 1641, 1650, 1716, 1786, 1816, 1825, 1826 and 1836 are included under the topic Early Donley History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Donley Spelling Variations

Within the archives researched, many different spelling variations of the surname Donley were found. These included One reason for the many variations is that scribes and church officials often spelled an individual's name as it sounded. This imprecise method often led to many versions. Donnely, Donnelly, Donelly, O'Donnelly, O'Donelly, Donnolly, Donnally, Donolly, Donnilly, Donnelie, Donneley, O'Donnally and many more.

Early Notables of the Donley family (pre 1700)

Notable among the family name at this time was Patrick Donnelly (1650-1716), an Irish Roman Catholic Bishop, known as The Bard of Armagh, born in Desertcreaght, Cookstown, County Tyrone. John Feltham Danneley, "born at Oakingham in 1786, was the second son of a lay-clerk of St. George's Chapel, Windsor. At fifteen years of age he studied thorough bass under Samuel Webbe, and the pianoforte first under Charles Knyvett and afterwards under Charles Neate. He resided...
Another 74 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Donley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Donley Ranking

In the United States, the name Donley is the 4,805th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [1]

United States Donley migration to the United States +

During the 19th century thousands of impoverished Irish families made the long journey to British North America and the United States. These people were leaving a land that had become beset with poverty, lack of opportunity, and hunger. In North America, they hoped to find land, work, and political and religious freedoms. Although the majority of the immigrants that survived the long sea passage did make these discoveries, it was not without much perseverance and hard work: by the mid-19th century land suitable for agriculture was short supply, especially in British North America, in the east; the work available was generally low paying and physically taxing construction or factory work; and the English stereotypes concerning the Irish, although less frequent and vehement, were, nevertheless, present in the land of freedom, liberty, and equality for all men. The largest influx of Irish settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. Research into passenger and immigration lists has brought forth evidence of the early members of the Donley family in North America:

Donley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Jude Donley, who landed in America in 1638 [2]
Donley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Donley, aged 33, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1811 [2]
  • Owen Donley, who landed in Maryland in 1840 [2]
  • Jane Donley, aged 22, who landed in New York, NY in 1849 [2]
  • John Donley, aged 24, who arrived in New York, NY in 1849 [2]
  • Thomas Donley, who arrived in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1854 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Donley (post 1700) +

  • Kerry Joseph Donley (1956-2022), American banker and politician, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia (2003-2005), Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia (1996-2003)
  • Willis E. Donley (1901-1985), American lawyer and politician who served in the Wisconsin State Assembly
  • Roy L. Donley (1885-1939), American businessman and politician, member of the Berkeley, California, Board of Park Commissioners and the Los Angeles City Council, from 1931 to 1933
  • Michael Bruce Donley (b. 1952), American politician, 22nd Secretary of the United States Air Force (2008-2013)
  • Joseph Benton Donley (1838-1917), American Republican politician, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1869-1871)
  • James Kenneth "Jimmy" Donley (1929-1963), American singer-songwriter
  • Douglas "Doug" Max Donley (b. 1959), former American football wide receiver ho played from 1981 to 1986
  • Charles "Red" Donley (1923-1998), long-time American sports and news anchor
  • Kevin Donley (b. 1951), American football coach and former player
  • Manuel "Cowboy" Donley (1927-2020), Mexican-born pioneer of Tejano music

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  2. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8) on Facebook