Riley History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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

Early Origins of the Riley family

The surname Riley 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 Riley family

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

Riley Spelling Variations

A name was often recorded during the Middle Ages under several different spelling variations during the life of its bearer because literacy was rare there was no real push to clearly define any of the languages found in the British Isles at that time. Variations found of the name Riley include O'Reilly, O'Reilley, O'Reily, O'Rielly, O'Riely, O'Riley, O'Rilley, Reel and many more.

Early Notables of the Riley 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 Riley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Riley World Ranking

In the United States, the name Riley is the 187th most popular surname with an estimated 131,811 people with that name. [1] However, in Canada, the name Riley is ranked the 753rd most popular surname with an estimated 7,095 people with that name. [2] And in Australia, the name Riley is the 245th popular surname with an estimated 14,086 people with that name. [3] New Zealand ranks Riley as 267th with 2,257 people. [4] The United Kingdom ranks Riley as 176th with 31,184 people. [5]


United States Riley migration to the United States +

Death and immigration greatly reduced Ireland's population in the 19th century. For the native Irish people poverty, hunger, and racial prejudice was common. Therefore, thousands left their homeland to seek opportunity in North America. Those who survived the journey and the quarantine camps to which they arrived, were instrumental towards building the strong developing nations of the United States and the future Canada. By far, the largest influx of Irish settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. These were employed as construction or factory workers. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has shown early immigrants bearing the name Riley:

Riley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Elizabeth Riley, aged 18, who arrived in Virginia in 1635 [6]
  • Garrett Riley, aged 24, who landed in Virginia in 1635 [6]
  • Miles Riley, aged 20, who landed in Virginia in 1635 [6]
  • Richard Riley, who arrived in Virginia in 1649 [6]
Riley Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Henry Riley, who landed in Rowley, Massachusetts in 1710 [6]
  • Terence Riley, who arrived in Pennsylvania, Virginia or Maryland in 1773 [6]
Riley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Johan Riley, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1803 [6]
  • Nancy Riley, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1811 [6]
  • Hugh Riley, aged 26, who arrived in New York in 1812 [6]
  • Edward Cost Riley, who landed in New York in 1820 [6]
  • Martin Riley, who landed in New York in 1822 [6]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Riley Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Anthony Riley, who arrived in Wisconsin in 1922 [6]

Canada Riley migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Riley Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Corns Riley, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
Riley Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Margaret Riley, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1828
  • Catherine Riley, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1832
  • Samuel Riley, aged 48, a farmer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Edward Reid" in 1833
  • Bartholomew Riley, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1840
  • Bernard Riley, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1841
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Riley migration to Australia +

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

Riley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Adam Riley, British Convict who was convicted in Stafford, Staffordshire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Earl Cornwallis" in August 1800, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • Mr. Thomas Riley, British Convict who was convicted in Middlesex, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Earl Cornwallis" in August 1800, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • Mr. William Riley, British Convict who was convicted in Stafford, Staffordshire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Earl Cornwallis" in August 1800, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • Mr. James Riley, (b. 1777), aged 26, British convict who was convicted in Middlesex, England for 7 years for theft, transported aboard the "Calcutta" in February 1803, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [8]
  • Mr. Thomas Riley, British convict who was convicted in Northumberland, England for life, transported aboard the "Calcutta" in February 1803, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [8]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Riley 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:

Riley Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Frederick Riley, Cornish settler travelling from Launceston aboard the ship "Eagle" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand in 1841 [9]
  • Mrs Mary Riley, Cornish settler travelling from Launceston aboard the ship "Eagle" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand in 1841 [9]
  • Mr. John Riley, (b. 1814), aged 28, British cabinet maker travelling from London aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" arriving in Nelson, South Island, New Zealand on 28th October 1842 [10]
  • Mrs. Mary Riley, (b. 1806), aged 36, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" arriving in Nelson, South Island, New Zealand on 28th October 1842 [10]
  • Mr. William Riley, (b. 1833), aged 9, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" arriving in Nelson, South Island, New Zealand on 28th October 1842 [10]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

West Indies Riley migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [11]
Riley Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Mr. Thomas Riley, (b. 1619), aged 16, British settler travelling aboard the ship "The Dorset" arriving in Barbados in September 1635 [12]

Contemporary Notables of the name Riley (post 1700) +

  • Steve Bruce Riley (1952-2021), American professional football player who was an offensive tackle for 10 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League (NFL)
  • Terence Riley (1954-2021), American architect and chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art from 1992 to 2006
  • Kenneth Jerome "Ken" Riley (1947-2020), American professional football cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals (1969–1983)
  • Benjamin Alexander "Ben" Riley Jr. (1933-2017), American jazz drummer
  • Bernard Riley (b. 1981), American football defensive lineman who has played since 2003
  • John A. "Jack" Riley Jr. (1935-2016), American actor, comedian and voice artist, known for his role as Elliot Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show and for voicing Stuart "Stu" Pickles in Rugrats
  • B. Daniel Riley (1946-2016), English-born, American politician in the Maryland House of Delegates
  • John Patrick "Jack" Riley (1920-2016), American ice hockey player and coach, hockey coach at West Point (1950-1986), gold medal coach of the United States team at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics
  • Chris Riley (b. 1982), American soccer player
  • Chris Riley (b. 1973), American PGA golfer, ranked in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings
  • ... (Another 163 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Empress of Ireland
  • Mr. John Riley, British Seaman from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking [13]
HMAS Sydney II
  • Mr. Edwin Martin Riley (1923-1941), Australian Ordinary Seaman from Laidley, Queensland, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II and died in the sinking [14]
HMS Hood
  • Mr. George P Riley (b. 1916), English Stoker 1st Class serving for the Royal Navy from Birmingham, England, who sailed into battle and died in the sinking [15]
HMS Royal Oak
  • Charles H. Riley, British Seaman with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he survived the sinking [16]
  • Joseph Riley (1922-1939), British Boy 1st Class with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he died in the sinking [16]
RMS Lusitania
  • Miss Sutcliffe Riley, American 3rd Class passenger from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking by escaping in life boat 13 [17]
  • Mr. Edward Riley, American 3rd Class passenger from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking [17]
  • Mrs. Annie Riley, American 3rd Class passenger from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking [17]
  • Miss Ethel Riley, American 3rd Class passenger from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking by escaping in life boat 13 [17]
Winter Quarters coal mine
  • Mr. Thomas Riley (b. 1865), English mine worker from Durham, England residing in Scofield, Utah who worked in the Winter Quarters coal mine on 1st May 1900, when 10 of the 25lb kegs of black powder exploded; he died in the explosion [18]


Suggested Readings for the name Riley +

  • Reilly of Ballintlea by Joseph F. Reilly.
  • Petty, Of England & Virginia; Wright of Virginia, Kentucky, & Missouri by Gerald McKinney Petty.
  • Indiana Kindred: A Record of the Riley Family and their Kinfolk of Boone & Switzerland Counties, Indiana by Frederick Glenn Riley.

  1. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  2. ^ https://forebears.io/surnames/
  3. ^ https://forebears.io/australia/surnames
  4. ^ https://forebears.io/new-zealand/surnames
  5. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  6. ^ 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)
  7. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 13th August 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/earl-cornwallis
  8. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/calcutta
  9. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  10. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  11. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies
  12. ^ Pilgrim Ship Lists Early 1600's retrieved 29th September 2021. (Retrieved from https://www.packrat-pro.com/ships/shiplist.htm)
  13. ^ Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 17) . Retrieved from http://www.empress2014.ca/seclangen/listepsc1.html
  14. ^ HMAS Sydney II, Finding Sydney Foundation - Roll of Honour. (Retrieved 2014, April 24) . Retrieved from http://www.findingsydney.com/roll.asp
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ Ships hit by U-boats crew list HMS Royal Oak (08) - (Retrieved 2018 February, 9th) - retrieved from https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship68.html
  17. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 6) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/
  18. ^ Miners killed in Winter Quarters (retrieved 28th July 2021). Retrieved from http://www.carbon-utgenweb.com/miners.html


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