McNelly History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The root of the ancient Dalriadan-Scottish name McNelly is the personal name Neil. The Gaelic form Mac Neill translates as son of Neil.

Early Origins of the McNelly family

The surname McNelly was first found in on the islands of Barra, Gigha, Colonsay, and Oronsay. According to traditional records in 1049, Niall, a direct descendent of King Niall of the Nine Hostages, landed in Barra and founded the Clan MacNeill of Barra.

However, another kinsman, some believe to be the younger brother of Niall named Anrothan, married a Princess of the Dalriadans, an ancient race from which sprang most of the early Scottish Kings. Legend has it that Anrothan started the MacNeill house of Colonsay through his son Torquil of Taynish.

This latter branch acquired the lands of Gigha, Colonsay and Oronsay, beyond the Firth of Lorne. For the next two centuries it appears as though these two great houses were developing independently of one another.

Early History of the McNelly family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McNelly research. Another 361 words (26 lines of text) covering the years 1590, 1730, 1370, 1380, 1526, 1562, 1640, 1631, 1640, 1612, 1613, 1686 and are included under the topic Early McNelly History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McNelly Spelling Variations

The translation of Gaelic names in the Middle Ages was not a task undertaken with great care. Records from that era show an enormous number of spelling variations, even in names referring to the same person. Over the years McNelly has appeared as MacNeil, MacNeill, MacNeal, MacNeilage, MacNeale, MacNeall, MacNeille, MacNeel, MacNiel, MacGreal, Mcneil, Mcneill, McNeal, Mcneal, Mcneall and many more.

Early Notables of the McNelly family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the Clan from early times was Nigel M'Nele, Laird of Blarekanne c. 1370-1380; Alexander Makneyll, a notary public in Edinburgh in 1526; Richard Neile (1562-1640) was an English churchman, Archbishop...
Another 32 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McNelly Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McNelly Ranking

In the United States, the name McNelly is the 13,458th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [1]

Ireland Migration of the McNelly family to Ireland

Some of the McNelly family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 85 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States McNelly migration to the United States +

Many settled along the east coast of what would become the United States and Canada. As the American War of Independence broke out, those who remained loyal to the crown went north to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. The ancestors of all of these hardy Dalriadan-Scottish settlers began to recover their collective history in the 20th century with the advent of the vibrant culture fostered by highland games and Clan societies in North America. Highland games, clan societies, and other organizations generated much renewed interest in Scottish heritage in the 20th century. The McNelly were among the earliest of the Scottish settlers as immigration passenger lists have shown:

McNelly Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • George McNelly, aged 26, who landed in New York, NY in 1822 [2]
McNelly Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Adeline McNelly, aged 43, who arrived in America from Dublin, Ireland, in 1906
  • Morris McNelly, aged 11, who arrived in America from Dublin, Ireland, in 1906
  • Muriel McNelly, aged 13, who arrived in America from Dublin, Ireland, in 1906
  • Robert McNelly, aged 45, who arrived in America from Dublin, Ireland, in 1906
  • James T. McNelly, aged 42, who arrived in America, in 1907
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada McNelly migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

McNelly Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Robert McNelly, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1834

Contemporary Notables of the name McNelly (post 1700) +

  • Willis Everett McNelly (1920-2003), American professor and writer, best known for The Dune Encyclopedia (1984)
  • Leander Harvey McNelly (1844-1877), American Confederate officer and Texas Ranger captain, eponym of the United States liberty ship SS L. H. McNelly
  • William O. McNelly, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Minnesota, 1956
  • John McNelly, American politician, Member of Minnesota State House of Representatives 1st District, 1875-76; Member of Minnesota State Senate 1st District, 1877-78


The McNelly Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Vincere vel mori
Motto Translation: To conquer or die.


  1. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  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)


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