Donnely History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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

Early Origins of the Donnely family

The surname Donnely 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 Donnely family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Donnely 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 Donnely History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Donnely Spelling Variations

The Middle Ages saw a great number of spelling variations for surnames common to the Irish landscape. One reason for these variations is the fact that surnames were not rigidly fixed by this period. The following variations for the name Donnely were encountered in the archives: Donnely, Donnelly, Donelly, O'Donnelly, O'Donelly, Donnolly, Donnally, Donolly, Donnilly, Donnelie, Donneley, O'Donnally and many more.

Early Notables of the Donnely 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 Donnely Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Donnely migration to the United States +

In the 19th century, thousands of Irish left their English-occupied homeland for North America. Like most new world settlers, the Irish initially settled on the eastern shores of the continent but began to move westward with the promise of owning land. The height of this Irish migration came during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. With apparently nothing to lose, Irish people left on ships bound for North America and Australia. Unfortunately a great many of these passengers lost their lives - the only thing many had left - to disease, starvation, and accidents during the long and dangerous journey. Those who did safely arrive in "the land of opportunities" were often used for the hard labor of building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. The Irish were critical to the quick development of the infrastructure of the United States and Canada. Passenger and immigration lists indicate that members of the Donnely family came to North America quite early:

Donnely Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Donnely, who landed in Tippecanoe County, Ind in 1842 [1]
  • Rose Donnely, aged 22, who arrived in New York in 1849 [1]
  • Michael, Patrick, and Thomas Donnely, who settled in Pennsylvania between 1832 and 1880


  1. ^ 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)


Houseofnames.com on Facebook