Show ContentsNellis History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Nellis comes from the ancient Dalriadan clans of Scotland's west coast and Hebrides islands. The name comes from the personal name Neil. The Gaelic form Mac Neill translates as son of Neil.

Early Origins of the Nellis family

The surname Nellis 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 Nellis family

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

Nellis 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 Nellis 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 Nellis 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 Nellis Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Nellis Ranking

In the United States, the name Nellis is the 10,727th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [1]

Ireland Migration of the Nellis family to Ireland

Some of the Nellis 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 Nellis migration to the United States +

Many of the ancestors of Dalriadan families who arrived in North America still live in communities along the east coast of Canada and the United States. In the American War of Independence many of the original settlers traveled north to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the ancestors of many Scots began recovering their collective national heritage through Clan societies, highland games, and other patriotic events. Research into the origins of individual families in North America revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Nellis or a variant listed above:

Nellis Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Nellis, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851 [2]
  • Jo Nellis, who landed in Arkansas in 1891 [2]

Canada Nellis migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Nellis Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Mrs. Johann Nellis U.E., (née Henrich) who settled in Canada c. 1784 [3]
  • Lieut. Robert Nellis U.E. who settled in Home District [York County], Ontario c. 1786 he served in the Indian Department [3]
  • Capt. Henry W. Nellis U.E. who settled in Home District [York County], Ontario c. 1786 he served in the Indian Department, wife and five children [3]
  • Mr. William Nellis U.E. who settled in Home District [York County], Ontario c. 1786 son of Capt. Henry W. Nellis [3]

Contemporary Notables of the name Nellis (post 1700) +

  • M. Duane Nellis, American academic, 16th President of Texas Tech University (2013-)
  • William Harrell Nellis (1916-1944), American World War II airman, eponym of Nellis Air Force Base
  • Alice Nellis (b. 1971), Czech filmmaker

The Nellis 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. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  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)
  3. Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X on Facebook