Today's Irish surnames are underpinned by a multitude of rich histories. The name O'Donelly originally appeared in Gaelic as O Donnghaile, derived from the words "donn," which means brown, and "gal," which means valor.
Early Origins of the O'Donelly family
The surname O'Donelly 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 O'Donelly family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our O'Donelly research.Another 221 words (16 lines of text) covering the years 1603, 1641, 1650 and 1716 are included under the topic Early O'Donelly History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
O'Donelly Spelling Variations
Pronunciation, rather than spelling, guided scribes and church officials when recording names during the Middle Ages. This practice often resulted in one person's name being recorded under several different spellings. Numerous spelling variations
of the surname O'Donelly are preserved in these old documents. The various spellings of the name that were found include Donnely, Donnelly, Donelly, O'Donnelly, O'Donelly, Donnolly, Donnally, Donolly, Donnilly, Donnelie, Donneley, O'Donnally and many more.
Early Notables of the O'Donelly family (pre 1700)
Another 28 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early O'Donelly Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the O'Donelly family to the New World and Oceana
A massive amount of Ireland's native population left the island in the 19th century for North America and Australia
in hopes of finding more opportunities and an escape from discrimination and oppression. A great portion of these migrants arrived on the eastern shores of the North American continent. Although they were generally poor and destitute, and, therefore, again discriminated against, these Irish people were heartily welcomed for the hard labor involved in the construction of railroads, canals, roadways, and buildings. Many others were put to work in the newly established factories or agricultural projects that were so essential to the development of what would become two of the wealthiest nations in the world. The Great Potato Famine
during the late 1840s initiated the largest wave of Iris immigration. Early North American immigration and passenger lists have revealed a number of people bearing the name O'Donelly or a variant listed above: Catherine and Hugh Donnelly who settled in New York in 1803; Hugh Donnelly settled in Belfast, Maine in 1820; Bryan, Peter and Thomas Donnelly landed in America in 1763.