Gaelic to English

    I think it is important to understand that the Irish had their own language and culture.  Most of their words are very much different from English and surnames seem to follow a different route as well, the Irish surnames were often a description about the offsprings relationship to their elder while most English surnames were often about a trade or a place.  Most Irish surnames may appear strangely in Irish Gaelic but sound almost the same as in English.  For example our family surname is Ui  Ceallaigh, the Ui is the plural form of Ua and has a long e sound our sounds like E Kelley.  Ua in Gaelic has a oo-oh sound but over time this came to be a long O sound and is represented as O Ceallaigh and is pronounced as "O Kel Ley" thus when translated into English very early it appeared as o Kelley.  This actually makes some very good sense.  I suspect the first Irish to learn English and have their names translated into English were traders, those who imported and exported goods and because of their daily contact with the English, like the modern Chinese these Irish had to learn to read and write English in order to do business with the English and they needed to have a name spelled in English thus Gaelic Ua Ceallaigh became English O'Kelley.  I believe the double "e" spelling was a very early translation and it could have had even more letters as I have also see O'Keylleye.  Middle English had many extra letters to aid in pronouncing the words and many of these words may have remained that way if not for the invention of the printing press and the mass production of books for profit.  Words or letters were hand set and paper, ink, and labor all costs money so to reduce expenses and make more profit many words wee put on a diet having those unnecessary letters taken out and because books were now mass produced for the masses the language now had examples for its readers to follow as they created their own books and letters.  We see this today, the impact of websites, emails, text messages, and twitter has on our written communications. 

It might be surprising to some but some of the purest forms of early translations of Gaelic names can be found outside of Ireland.  England was using the pain of death to force the Irish to become English and for the most part that did occur because today most Irish can no longer speak their native language and their names are spelled as the English wanted them spelled but many of those who left Ireland rather than remain and be transformed held onto to their family names or restored them after our Revolution.  I am certain that our name, O'Kelley is the early English translation of Ua Ceallaigh and Kelly is the newer form forced upon the Irish by the English. 

To help me understand Gaelic to English transations I turned to a book by Nancy Stenson titled Basic Irish.

Gaelic English Sound
Ua as in Ua Ceallaigh (singular) grandson of Ua has a oo-uh sound
Ui as in Ui Ceallaigh (plural) grandsons of Ui has a long i sound
Mac or Mic as in Mac Ceallaigh Son of  
” as in ” Cealliagh descendent of ” has  a long O sound
Nic as in Nic Ceallaigh daughter of  
Ni as in Ni Ceallaigh granddaughter of  
Ui Maine Hy Many i Man Ie
Aedh Hugh  
Conchobhar Conor  
Cormac Charles  
Domhnall Donald  
Donnchadh Duncan  
Eoghan Eugene  
Eoin John  
Ruaidhri Rory or Roger  
Tadhg Teige or Timothy

More Irish to English names can be found at

Irish Gaelic women did not take their husbands names when they married and this was because the name described their relationship to their elder.  If Ni Murphy married Ua Ceallaigh, she was still the granddaughter of Murphy, that relationship did not change and she was not the grandson of Ceallaigh by marriage so to take her husband's name would have not been valid.  Nancy Stenson describes an interesting custom that explains some of the odd DNA matches.  When there were two people in the same village that had the same name, they would take on the given name of their father.  For example let us say we had two Tomas Ua Ceallaighs living in a villiage.  One was born to Farrell Ua Ceallaigh and the other to Conley Ua Ceallaigh.  To allow the community to know who was who, these two would be known as Tomas Mac Farrell and Tomas Mac Conley and to complicate this more, their children could be known as Ua Farrell and Ua Conley.