Log in  | New? Register

579,642 KELLY members around the world

Family spelling variants includes Kelley, Kellie, Killey, Killy, O’kelly, McKelly

Stay informed about KELLY Family online & offline events!

Keep me informed as to KELLY Family online & offline events

My KELLY family came from?

See our recent family gatherings

KELLY Family History

KELLY of Irish Origin

Ó Ceallaigh is angliciized as (O) Kelly. the name Ceallach has been translated as 'strife' or 'contention' or 'bright-headed'.

There were several powerful distinct septs of the name. The two most influential were the Uí Maine sept in Oriel, ruling extensive lands in Connacht, and the Southern Uí Néill sept in Meath who were lords of Brega, near Navan; they were one of 'the four tribes of Tara'. Other septs were in Derry, three in Laois, one in Wicklow, one in Sligo and one branch of the Corca Laoidhe in west Cork

In the 1659 'Census' of Sir William Petty, Kelly is listed as a 'Principal Irish Name' in the following counties (NB Galway, Mayo & Tyrone returns are missing): all figures are for families, Kildare (240 + a scattering of Keely, see below); Kilkenny (133); Laois (121); Dublin (98) + city (16); Down (63 -some still with prefix 'O'); Meath (54); Donegal (39, often with prefix 'O'); Tipperary (90, including 30 or so 'Kealy' this last may well be a distinct name, Ó Caollaidhe, a sept in Co Kilkenny); Clare (28); Offaly, Kelly (18) and Keely (36, see foregoing); etc etc

By the time of Griffith's 'Primary Valuation' (1850s) of households in Ireland, high numbers are recorded over the whole country: the top five counties are: Galway (986) Roscommon (815) Tyrone (514) Kilkenny (466) and Kildare (461).

In the Registrar General's Report on births in 1890, Kelly had the second highest number in Ireland, the most being in Dublin, Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Cork. It was the most numerous surname in Kildare, Offaly, Galway, Leitrim and Roscommon.

Early references:

'Mór, daughter of Donnchadh, son of Ceallach, and queen of Ireland, died': recorded in the Annals of Tigernach for 986.

Tadhg ua Ceallaigh, lord of Uí Maine, died at the Battle of Clontarf: recorded for 1013 in the Annals of the Four Masters.

Two famous Kellys:

Grace Kelly (1929-1982) film star and Princess of Monaco.
Gerry Kelly (b 1953) IRA volunteer in the northern 'Troubles', now Sinn Féin politician.

KELLY of British Origin

Kelly is also a surname from the place-name Kelly in Devon (from 'kelli' which is Cornish for 'grove'), and a lord of the name, Warin de Kelly, is recorded there as early as 1194 ('Pipe Rolls', Richard 1). The family still occupy the place, and have done for 900 years. Their very ancient coat of arms, quite distinct from that of the Irish Kellys, are illustrated below in the Gallery: the general principle being the more simple the blazon, the more ancient.

Place names in Scotland, Kelly near Arbroath in Angus and Kellie in Fife, have also given rise to the Scottish surname Kelly. John de Kelly was abbot of Arbroath from 1373. The Scottish place-name comes from the Gaelic 'coille', meaning 'wood'. Kelly is also a byname of the clan MacDonald.

There are many Irish names whose anglicised forms are identical to lesser known British names; individuals bearing these British names were in Ireland during especially the 17th century, as officials, settlers and soldiers. (v. Appendix). This would not affect the majority Irish provenance of the name; the majority of Kellys in Britain are probably of Irish immigrant extraction. However, some Kelly families in Devon, Cornwall and Scotland would be of indigenous stock.

Also q. v. v. Boland, Boyle, Brady, Breen, Buckley, Canny, Car(e)y, Conway, Craven, Crowley, Cullen, Curry, Delan(e)y, Farren, Fearon, Foley, Gavin, Geary, Gorman, Hanl(e)y, Healy, Hurl(e)y, Hynes, Kelly, Kenny, Larkin, Loftus, Long, Luc(e)y, Lyons, Mullen, Rea, Reaney, Ring, Sexton, Trac(e)y, Tunney et. al.

Pat Carey

Who have we missed?

Tell us about any famous KELLY (or surname variant) you think we should add here. We will get our genealogists to check them out and add them to the list. Thanks!


Join the conversation with the KELLY tribe

  • Find your KELLY ancestor
  • Tell us about your KELLY Family
  • Tell us about your KELLY ancestors
  • Ask a question about the KELLY history
  • Leave a message for KELLY family members
M Lock

I'm searching for my Kelly family who originated from Queens County and lived in Manchester, England. My great-gran Sarah Kelly had a father Michael on her marriage which took place in Manchester in 1873 but she was born in 1952. Any suggestions would be great.

Bob Baskerville

My Great Great Grandfather, Patrick Kelly, son of Patrick Kelly and Ellen Sheridan, was born in County Leitrm in 1851, emigrated to America in 1869-1870 with 2 cousins. My information ends with Patrick and Ellen, we are not sure if they had more kids than Patrick, who their parents were etc. Any help would be appreciated.

Kelly Gibbons Benedict

My great grandfather’s name is John Kelly who married Bridget Kettrick. These are the children’s names, Charles, Michael, John, Mary, Norah, Julia, Pat and Bridget Kelly who married Martin Gibbons. I know Bridget Kettrick’s fathers name is Patrick Kettrick, his wife I might be Bridget Hoster and that’s all I have on my grandmother Bridget A (Kelly) Gibbons. Can anyone help me out? My grandmother Bridget (Kelly) Gibbons often was called Bridie and her sister Catherine was called Kitty who married in the USA as well.


My Great Grandfather and his immigration papers and I have his first and last and where from. His name is Patrick Kelly and he immigrated from Dublin. My first name is Kelly because I was named after my Nana's maiden name which was Kelly from her Father. So the names I have are Patrick Kelly from Dublin probably around the 1900s I'm guessing. Patrick Kelly from Dublin immigrated around 1900s Daughter is Ruth Kelly which was her maiden name she became Ruth Wilkinson after.

Shirl O'Connor

Hello, My Name is Shirl O'Connor. My Father is James O'Connor. His Mother was Kathleen Duggan and his father was Michael O'Connor. I know his Father was born in 1894 and died in 1937. If anyone could help me, Find their marriage and another information please I would be grateful.

Dermot Blake

Margaret Kelly from Dublin lived in Astoria Oregon. Her brother John Kelly married to Mary Byrne also lived in Astoria and had one child Maurice Kelly born April 1918 New York.....died in Palm Springs May 2008

The KELLY Gallery
  • Arms of English Kelly family of Kelly in Devon

Invite more KELLY family members!

Write an email address and click 'Invite' to share this page with more members of the KELLY tribe.

Log in or Register to invite others
Family Coat of Arms Generator

Why not see what your family crest could look like based on your own family characteristics?

Create Crest

Discover where the KELLY Family members live around the world

Explore where tribe members live today!


Show off the KELLY Family Crest…

Wear your crest with pride...plenty of products to choose from