O'Reilly History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The O'Reilly surname originally appeared in Gaelic as O Raghailligh, which means descendant of Raghallach.

Early Origins of the O'Reilly family

The surname O'Reilly was first found in County Cavan. They were known as the Princes of East Breffny, descended from Raghallaigh, Prince of Breffny in 981. They maintained their territory during the Anglo/ Norman invasion of Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, in 1172, but Sir John O'Reilly, Prince of Breffny surrendered the principality to Queen Elizabeth I thereby ensuring that his territories remained intact.

Early History of the O'Reilly family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our O'Reilly research. Another 95 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1598, 1669, 1630, 1695, 1689, 1640, 1703, 1689, 1646, 1691 and 1667 are included under the topic Early O'Reilly History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

O'Reilly Spelling Variations

Many spelling variations of the surname O'Reilly can be found in the archives. One reason for these variations is that ancient scribes and church officials recorded names as they were pronounced, often resulting in a single person being recorded under several different spellings. The different spellings that were found include O'Reilly, O'Reilley, O'Reily, O'Rielly, O'Riely, O'Riley, O'Rilley, Reel and many more.

Early Notables of the O'Reilly family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family name at this time was Count John O'Reilly; Edmund O'Reilly (1598-1669), Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh; Hugh Reily (Reilly or O’Reilly) (c.1630-1695) Irish Member of Parliament for Cavan Borough in the Patriot Parliament of 1689; Philip Og O’Reilly (Gaelic was Phillip Óg O’Raghallaigh)(c.1640-1703), Irish...
Another 48 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early O'Reilly Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States O'Reilly migration to the United States +

In the 19th century, thousands of Irish left their English-occupied homeland for North America. Like most new world settlers, the Irish initially settled on the eastern shores of the continent but began to move westward with the promise of owning land. The height of this Irish migration came during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. With apparently nothing to lose, Irish people left on ships bound for North America and Australia. Unfortunately a great many of these passengers lost their lives - the only thing many had left - to disease, starvation, and accidents during the long and dangerous journey. Those who did safely arrive in "the land of opportunities" were often used for the hard labor of building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. The Irish were critical to the quick development of the infrastructure of the United States and Canada. Passenger and immigration lists indicate that members of the O'Reilly family came to North America quite early:

O'Reilly Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Alexander, Bernard, Christopher, James, Patrick, Terence, and Thomas O'Reilly, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between 1840 and 1860
O'Reilly Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Alice O'Reilly, aged 24, who immigrated to America from Dublin, in 1900
  • Alma O'Reilly, aged 9, who landed in America, in 1903
  • Andrew O'Reilly, aged 22, who immigrated to the United States from Cootehill High Briagan, Ireland, in 1906
  • A. E. O'Reilly, aged 21, who settled in America from London, England, in 1909
  • Alice O'Reilly, aged 30, who landed in America from Carrigan, Ireland, in 1910
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada O'Reilly migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

O'Reilly Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Thomas O'Reilly, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Protector" in 1834

Australia O'Reilly migration to Australia +

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

O'Reilly Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Michael O'Reilly, aged 24, who arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Sir Thomas Gresham" [1]
  • John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-1890), Irish convict who arrived in Western Australia aboard the ship "Hougoumont", the last convict ship in 1868

New Zealand O'Reilly 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:

O'Reilly Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Rev. John James Purcell O'Reilly, British settler travelling from London and Plymouth aboard the ship "Thomas Sparks" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 31st January 1843, the ship stuck rocks of the coast of Cape of Good Hope delaying her landing by 2 months [2]
  • John O'Reilly, aged 25, a labourer, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Eveline" in 1865
  • Mr. John O'Reilly, South African settler travelling from Cape Town aboard the ship "Eveline" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 22nd January 1865 [3]

Contemporary Notables of the name O'Reilly (post 1700) +

  • Mary Margaret O'Reilly (1865-1949), American Assistant Director of the United States Bureau of the Mint
  • Charles Francis O'Reilly, American founder of O'Reilly Auto Parts in 1957, now with 4,100 stores throughout the United States
  • William James "Bill" O'Reilly Jr. (b. 1949), American television host, author, syndicated columnist, best known for his political commentary program The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel
  • Tim O'Reilly (b. 1954), Irish-born, American founder of O'Reilly Media, known for his support of free software and open source movements
  • Heather O'Reilly (b. 1985), American soccer player, three-time Olympic Gold medalist
  • David J. O'Reilly (b. 1947), American former Chairman and CEO of Chevron Corporation
  • Samuel O'Reilly (d. 1908), American inventor of the modern tattoo gun
  • Robert O'Reilly (b. 1950), American actor
  • Leonora O’Reilly (1870-1927), American feminist, suffragist, and trade union organizer
  • Bernard O’Reilly (1824-1894), Irish-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church, 3rd Bishop of Liverpool (1873-1894)
  • ... (Another 15 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Hood
  • Mr. Dennis P O'Reilly (b. 1921), English Stoker 2nd Class serving for the Royal Navy from Eastbourne, Sussex, England, who sailed into battle and died in the sinking [4]


  1. ^ South Australian Register Monday 20th March 1854. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Sir Thomas Gresham 1854. Retrieved http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/sirthomasgresham1854.shtml.
  2. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  3. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  4. ^ H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: Crew Information - H.M.S. Hood Rolls of Honour, Men Lost in the Sinking of H.M.S. Hood, 24th May 1941. (Retrieved 2016, July 15) . Retrieved from http://www.hmshood.com/crew/memorial/roh_24may41.htm


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