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An excerpt from archives copyright © 2000 - 2016

The Irish name O'Kelly has a long Gaelic heritage to its credit. The original Gaelic form of the name O'Kelly is O Ceallaigh or Mac Ceallaigh. These names denote descendants of Ceallach. This personal name may be derived from the word "ceallach," which means "strife."


The surname O'Kelly was first found in southwest Ireland, south of Dublin where they held a family seat from very ancient times. The Kelly surname is conjecturally descended from King Colla da Crioch, who died in 357 A.D.

People who were accounted for by scribes and church officials often had their name recorded many different ways because pronunciation was the only guide those scribes and church officials had to go by. This resulted in the problem of one person's name being recorded under several different variations, creating the illusion of more than one person. Among the many spelling variations of the surname O'Kelly that are preserved in archival documents are Kelly, Kellie, O'Kelly, O'Killia and others.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our O'Kelly research. Another 223 words (16 lines of text) covering the years 1518, 1238, 1253, 1555, 1597, 1621, 1695, 1701, 1690 and 1699 are included under the topic Early O'Kelly History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Prominent amongst the family at this time was Daniel MacKelly; Sir Edward Kelley or Kelly, also known as Edward Talbot (1555-1597), Irish occultist and self-declared spirit medium; Charles O’Kelly (1621-1695) was an Irish soldier and writer from Aughrim, County Galway; and James Gilliam, also known as James Kelly, (died 1701), an...

Another 74 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early O'Kelly Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

A great mass of Ireland's native population left the island in the 19th century, seeking relief from various forms of social, religious, and economic discrimination. This Irish exodus was primarily to North Ameri ca. If the migrants survived the long ocean journey, many unfortunately would find more discrimination in the colonies of British North America and the fledgling United States of America. These newly arrived Irish were, however, wanted as a cheap source of labor for the many large agricultural and industrial projects that were essential to the development of what would become two of the wealthiest nations in the western world. Early immigration and passenger lists indicate many people bearing the O'Kelly name: Brian Kelly, who purchased land in Virginia in 1635; David O'Killlia came to Old Yarmouth/New Dennis, MA in the early 1600s, where he changed his name to O'Kelley.


  • Paddy O'Kelly (b. 1975), American professional baseball player
  • Don O'Kelly (1924-1966), American actor
  • Sean O'Kelly (b. 1975), Irish footballer
  • Sean O'Kelly (1883-1966), Irish journalist and politician, president of Ireland (1945-1959)
  • Seumas O'Kelly (1875-1918), Irish author and writer
  • Malcolm O'Kelly (b. 1974), Irish rugby player
  • John J. O'Kelly (1872-1957), Irish politician
  • James Joseph O'Kelly (1845-1916), Irish politician
  • Aloysius O'Kelly (1853-1941), Irish painter
  • Seamus O'Kelly, Irish short story writer
  • ...

O'Kelly Historic Events

RMS Lusitania

  • Mr. John J. O'Kelly, English 3rd Class passenger from England, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and died in the sinking

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: Turris Fortis Mihi Deus
Motto Translation: God is a strong tower to me.


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    Other References

    1. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
    2. Land Owners in Ireland. Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1203-3).
    3. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
    4. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
    5. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
    6. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
    7. MacLysaght, Edward. Mores Irish Familes. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-0126-0).
    8. Rasmussen, Louis J. . San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists 4 Volumes Colma, California 1965 Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1978. Print.
    9. Tepper, Michael Ed & Elizabeth P. Bentley Transcriber. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. Print.
    10. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
    11. ...

    The O'Kelly Family Crest was acquired from the archives. The O'Kelly Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

    This page was last modified on 26 January 2015 at 15:36.

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