Kelleher History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Irish surnames are linked to the long Gaelic heritage of the Island nation. The original Gaelic form of the name Kelleher is "O Ceileachair," which means "companion dear." [1] Another source claims the name means "wise, prudent." [2]

Early Origins of the Kelleher family

The surname Kelleher was first found in County Clare (Irish: An Clár) located on the west coast of Ireland in the province of Munster, where they held a family seat from very ancient times. They "derive their sirname from Ceileachar, son of Donchuan, brother of Brian Borimhe [Boru], the 175th Monarch of Ireland. In the twelfth and even so late as the sixteenth century, the O'Kellehers were possessed of lands in Munster; but the pedigree of the family is, we fear, lost." [2] The oldest record of the family was of Donogh O'Kelleher, successor of St. Kieren of Siager (Bishop of Ossory) who died in 1048. MacLysaght noted that the family left their original habitat in County Clare in the 14th century and moved to County Cork. [3]

Early History of the Kelleher family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kelleher research. Another 87 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 101 and 1014 are included under the topic Early Kelleher History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Kelleher Spelling Variations

Lacking standardized spellings, scribes and church officials recorded people's name according to how they sounded. This practice often led to the misleading result of one person's name being recorded under several different spellings. Numerous spelling variations of the surname Kelleher are preserved in the archival documents of the period. The various spellings of the name that were found include Kelleher, O'Kelleher, Kellehar, Kellegher and others.

Early Notables of the Kelleher family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Kelleher Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Kelleher migration to the United States +

Many Irish families boarded ships bound for North America in the middle of 19th century to escape the conditions of poverty and racial discrimination at that time. Although these immigrants often arrived in a destitute state, they went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of the United States and Canada. An inquiry into many immigration and passenger lists has revealed many early immigrants to North America bearing the Kelleher family name:

Kelleher Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Honoria, James, Joanna, John, and Mary Kelleher all, who settled in Boston in 1848
  • Dan Kelleher, aged 29, who arrived in New York, NY in 1849 [4]
  • Daniel Kelleher, aged 69, who landed in New York, NY in 1849 [4]
  • John Kelleher, aged 36, who arrived in New York, NY in 1849 [4]
  • Kitty Kelleher, aged 26, who landed in New York, NY in 1849 [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Kelleher migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Kelleher Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Jeremiah Kelleher, aged 25, a farmer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the brig "Charity" from Kinsale, Ireland
  • Catherine Kelleher, aged 25, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the brig "Charity" from Kinsale, Ireland
  • David Kelleher, aged 18, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the brig "Levant Star" from Cork, Ireland
  • Cornelius Kelleher, aged 28, a carpenter, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the brig "Levant Star" from Cork, Ireland
  • Mary Kelleher, aged 30, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1837 aboard the barque "Robert Watt" from Cork, Ireland
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Kelleher migration to Australia +

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

Kelleher Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • John Kelleher, aged 23, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Stamboul"

New Zealand Kelleher migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Kelleher Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • John Kelleher, aged 29, a farm labourer, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Bebington" in 1876
  • Catherine Kelleher, aged 23, a domestic servant, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Apelles" in 1878

Contemporary Notables of the name Kelleher (post 1700) +

  • Herbert D. Kelleher (1931-2019), American co-founder, and Chairman Emeritus and former CEO of Southwest Airlines
  • Robert Joseph Kelleher (1913-2012), American tennis player and official, inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (2000)
  • Mick Kelleher (b. 1947), American Major League Baseball player
  • John Patrick Kelleher (1893-1960), American Major League Baseball backup infielder
  • Tim Kelleher, American writer, actor, and director
  • Frank H. Kelleher, American Democrat politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Massachusetts, 1964 [5]
  • F. Michael Kelleher Jr., American Democrat politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Illinois 15th District, 2000 [5]
  • Edward J. Kelleher, American Democrat politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from New Jersey 1st District, 1926 [5]
  • Daniel Jerome Kelleher, American Republican politician, Candidate for New York State Assembly from New York County 7th District, 1909 [5]
  • Carrie Kelleher, American Republican politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Texas 30th District, 1998 [5]
  • ... (Another 21 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


  1. ^ Grehan, Ida, The Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart Publications, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X)
  2. ^ O'Hart, John, Irish Pedigrees 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4)
  3. ^ MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)
  4. ^ 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)
  5. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 27) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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