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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016


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

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The surname Reel 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.

Irish names were rarely spelled consistently in the Middle Ages. Spelling variations of the name Reel dating from that time include O'Reilly, O'Reilley, O'Reily, O'Rielly, O'Riely, O'Riley, O'Rilley, Reel and many more.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Reel research. Another 189 words (14 lines of text) covering the years 1598, 1669, 1630, 1695, 1689, 1640, 1703, 1689, 1646 and 1691 are included under the topic Early Reel History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 123 words (9 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Reel Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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To escape the religious and political discrimination they experienced primarily at the hands of the English, thousands of Irish left their homeland in the 19th century. These migrants typically settled in communities throughout the East Coast of North America, but also joined the wagon trains moving out to the Midwest. Ironically, when the American War of Independence began, many Irish settlers took the side of England, and at the war's conclusion moved north to Canada. These United Empire Loyalists, were granted land along the St. Lawrence River and the Niagara Peninsula. Other Irish immigrants settled in Newfoundland, the Ottawa Valley, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The greatest influx of Irish immigrants, however, came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Thousands left Ireland at this time for North America and Australia. Many of those numbers, however, did not live through the long sea passage. These Irish settlers to North America were immediately put to work building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. Irish settlers made an inestimable contribution to the building of the New World. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the Irish name Reel or a variant listed above, including:

Reel Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • Simon Reel, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1729
  • Jonnas Reel, aged 38, arrived in Pennsylvania in 1742
  • Matthias Reel, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1749
  • William Reel, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1761

Reel Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • George Reel, aged 27, landed in Mobile, Ala in 1832
  • Henry Reel, who arrived in Texas in 1835
  • James Reel, who landed in Texas in 1835
  • Daniel Reel, who arrived in Texas in 1835
  • Solomon Reel, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851


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  • William J. Reel, American Republican politician, Member of Connecticut State House of Representatives from North Canaan; Elected 1912, 1920
  • William Albert Reel Jr., American politician, Member of South Carolina State Senate from Edgefield County, 1965-66
  • Estelle Reel, American Republican politician, Wyoming superintendent of public instruction, 1895-98
  • Elizabeth D. Reel, American Democrat politician, Candidate for Presidential Elector for Pennsylvania, 1928
  • E. J. Reel, American politician, Mayor of Orlando, Florida, 1885-87
  • A. Frank Reel, American Democrat politician, Candidate for Mayor of Tarrytown, New York, 1955; Candidate for U.S. Representative from New York 25th District, 1962


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  1. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  2. Land Owners in Ireland. Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1203-3).
  3. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. Print.
  4. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  5. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  6. Donovan, George Francis. The Pre-Revolutionary Irish in Massachusetts 1620-1775. Menasha, WI: Geroge Banta Publsihing Co., 1932. Print.
  7. Harris, Ruth-Ann and B. Emer O'Keefe. The Search for Missing Friends Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in the Boston Pilot Volume II 1851-1853. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1991. Print.
  8. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  9. Sullivan, Sir Edward. The Book of Kells 3rd Edition. New York: Crescent Books, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-517-61987-3).
  10. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  11. ...

The Reel Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Reel 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 20 April 2016 at 10:13.

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