Select Kelly Surname Genealogy

Kelly is an Irish origin given name and surname. Etymologically, it originated as a patronymic surname, with the prefix Ó and the suffix Ceallach ("strife", or "contention"), the Old Gaelic clan name of Ó Ceallaigh which was anglicized as O'Kelly.

Kelly has been adapted to mean "brave warrior" in many English-speaking armies and as "warrior princess" in American popular culture

Select Kelly Resources on The Internet
Ireland.  There are said to be possibly ten different Kelly septs in Ireland and unsurprisingly Kelly is, after Murphy, the second most common name in Ireland.  Generally the "O" was dropped from O'Kelly during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The main O''Kellys have been the Ui Maine O'Kellys in mid Galway and south Roscommon in the western province of Connacht.  Their forebear is considered to be Teigh Mor O’Ceallaigh who died at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.  The 14th century Book of Ui Maine charted their pedigree.  There were 39 O’Ceallaighs until the last King of Ui Maine in the 16th century.  Their successors, the O'Kellys of Gallagh, are recognized as the overall O'Kelly chiefs.

There were also the O'Kellys of Breagh in Meath, dispersed at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion, and other Kelly families originating in Sligo, Cork, and Laois plus the Kellys from Loughinsholin in county Derry. 

The Kellys in Antrim and Down in east Ulster may either be the Cinel Eachrach of Irish origin or Scots Kellys from Galloway who arrived during the Ulster plantations.

Isle of Man.  Kelly, from MacCaellaigh or MacKelly, is the most common surname on the Isle of Man.  The MacKelly name first appeared in 1429 and John McKelly, first recorded in 1511, was the forebear of the Kellys of Ballabrew.

The Kelly spelling came in the 17th century.  John Kelly, born at Peel in 1699, was from an old Manx family. Dr. John Kelly, born in Braddan in 1750, was the author of the well-used Manx Grammar which came out in 1780

Has Anyone Seen Kelly?
was a popular music hall song from the early 1900’s.  The chorus went as follows: 

“Has anybody here seen Kelly?
Has anybody here seen Kelly?
Find him if you can!
He's as bad as old Antonio,
Left me on my own-ee-o,
Has anybody here seen Kelly?
Kelly from the Isle of Man!”

England.  The Kelly name in England can derive from the place-name Kelli in Devon, reflected as the Welsh/Cornish celli ("grove") in public records dating as far back as 1194.  Kelly House near Lifton has been inhabited by Kellys since the 1500’s and probably much earlier.  Benedictus Kelly was a Royal Navy officer from Devon who fought in the Napoleonic wars

However, most Kellys in England are of Irish origin.  One of the earliest was Denis O’Kelly who departed Ireland for London in the 1750’s.  He started out there as a billiard-marker and ended up a colonel and part-owner of the famous Derby winner Eclipse.  Festus Kelly came to London from Galway around 1800.  His son Frederick, who worked for the Post Office, put his name to Kelly’s Directory, the Victorian trade directory. 

.  The Kelly name in Scotland may derive from the place-name Kelly near Arbroath in Angus, reflected as the Gaelic coille ("wood" or "grove"), in public records dating as far back as 1373.  There was also another grouping of Kellys, originally McKelly, from Galloway.  As in England, most Kellys in Scotland are of Irish origin

  One of the first Kelly arrivals in America was Giles Kelly who departed Laios (then Leix) in 1677 for Maryland in 1677.  His descendants became Protestant and settled in Brunswick county, Virginia.  William Kelly, also Protestant, came to Virginia in 1746.  His descendants were the O'Kelleys.

Eugene Kelly arrived in 1830.  He was from the distinguished old Galway family of Mullaghmore which, however, had been dispossessed of most of its property in 1680.  Starting with little, he prospered as a merchant banker and was a strong supporter of the Irish nationalist cause.

John Kelly, an Irish immigrant from county Mayo in 1869, spawned a famous family.  One son Jack Kelly was an Olympic gold medallist in rowing three times and self-made millionaire, another son George a Pulitzer Prize winner.  Grace Kelly, the film star who became Princess of Monaco, was Jack’s daughter.

The Kelly and Kelley spelling are found in America.

Australia.  Red Kelly was transported from Tipperary to Australia in 1841 for stealing two pigs.  After obtaining his release in 1848 he married and settled down in Victoria.  His son was the famous Australian bushranger Ned Kelly who was executed after a shoot-out at Glenrowan in 1880.

Select Kelly Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Kelly Names

Michael Kelly
, an Irish actor and theatrical manager, was one of the leadfing figures in British musical theater at the turn of the 19th century.
Ned Kelly was the 19th century Australian bushranger and folk hero.
John J. O'Kelly was President of Sinn Fein from 1926 to 1931.
Grace Kelly was the American actress later Princess Grace of Monaco.
Gene Kelly was the American actor and dancer most remembered for Singin' in the Rain

Select Kellys Today
  • 102,000 in the UK (most numerous in Glasgow)
  • 120,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 147,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)
Kelly is the #2 ranked surname in Ireland.

Select Surname List

Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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