Show ContentsDonolly History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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

Early Origins of the Donolly family

The surname Donolly 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 Donolly family

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

Donolly Spelling Variations

Within the archives researched, many different spelling variations of the surname Donolly 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 Donolly 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 Donolly Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Donolly migration to the United States +

The 19th century saw a great wave of Irish families leaving Ireland for the distant shores of North America and Australia. These families often left their homeland hungry, penniless, and destitute due to the policies of England. Those Irish immigrants that survived the long sea passage initially settled on the eastern seaboard of the continent. Some, however, moved north to a then infant Canada as United Empire Loyalists after ironically serving with the English in the American War of Independence. Others that remained in America later joined the westward migration in search of land. The greatest influx of Irish immigrants, though, came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Thousands left Ireland at this time for North America, and those who arrived were immediately put to work building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. In fact, the foundations of today's powerful nations of the United States and Canada were to a larger degree built by the Irish. Archival documents indicate that members of the Donolly family relocated to North American shores quite early:

Donolly Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Lawrence Donolly, who arrived in Tippecanoe County, Ind in 1844 [1]

Canada Donolly migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Donolly Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Timothy Donolly, aged 36, a carpenter, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the brig "Levant Star" from Cork, Ireland

Australia Donolly migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Donolly Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. John Donolly who was convicted in Lancaster, Lancashire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Circassian" on 4th November 1832, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [2]
  • James Donolly, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Mary Dugdale" in 1840 [3]
  • James Donolly, aged 26, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "South Sea"
  • John Donolly, aged 20, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "South Sea"
  • Samuel Donolly, aged 21, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "South Sea"

  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)
  2. Convict Records of Australia. Retrieved 8th February 2021 from
  3. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) MARY DUGDALE 1840. Retrieved from on Facebook