Harold O'Kelley

As a retired criminal investigator I try to speak plainly and to the point so while my below analysis is blunt, I do not seek to be rude or disrespectful and if I appear to be I apologize.  I have a great deal of respect and gratitude for the person and the work of Harold O'Kelley as he spent his time and money to add to our knowledge about our ancestors and thanks to him a great deal of our ancestry has been preserved for all time but more importantly he gave us a different thought about our earlier ancestors.  Given the resources available to Harold one has to acknowledge the amount of effort, time, and money invested for what was probably a very minor financial return but it is certain he did not do it for money, he did it to express his love of his ancestors and his faith and by finding a merchant named William Kelly living in the portion of King and Queen County Virginia that became Caroline County Harold unknowingly added a very important clue to the identity of our last Irish Grandfather to die in Ireland as found in the Prerogative Wills of Ireland in 1748 is a William Kelly, Merchant and Gentleman.  Combined with Ruth Barton Pullium's family story that our ancestor came from Co Meath it leaves little doubt that the William Kelly that Harold found was the older brother of our ancestor who was settled and paved the way for our ancestor who is identified in a the 100 year old Pedigree written by Dr Thomas K O'Kelley as "James O'Kelley of Ireland".  The Thomas O'Kelley that Alethea Jane Macon believed was our ancestor was our first Irish Protestant Grandfather who converted in the 16th century so all the pieces of this puzzle have come together and Harold Earnest O'Kelley's research and book was critical in making that happen.

Harold was not as fortunate as I because a great deal of my information came to me in a computer file from my aunt Kathleen and from her very large starting point much of what I have discovered about our family I have found from the comfort of my easy chair with my laptop.  I have no doubt that if DNA science has been known and affordable at the time Harold prepared this book, he would have followed my path to narrow the search.  Thanks to DNA I know that our family did not descend from the Scots Irish but because they lived around them in Ireland their influence can not be denied and if Harold had known the information that has become available to me who knows what he may have done with it to uncover more.  Science has made my work much easier and more precise but I still have to analyze the data and do additional research to understand what the data might be telling me, that didn't come to me with the result of my DNA, it has taken me a great many hours of reading and reading again the same material to understand the customs of the Irish and how those customs influenced our family and I am just as certain that some new science will be discovered in our future and some new generation of O'Kelley will take up where I have left off and probably prove me wrong in many of my conclusions so nothing that I record should be taken as condemnation of any researcher who came before me.  In the end all our goals are the same; we are attempting to learn as much as possible about our ancestors, who they were and from where they came.   It is in this light that I make my assessments of my opinion about the mentioned author's work.  My only purpose with this page is to make readers aware that some (not all) of the Harold's work may not be invalid as indicated by the result of my DNA testing and they should consider this as they do their research. 

Harold O'Kelley - Four Families through Georgia (1985)

Thanks to the generosity of Shannon, a daughter, I have the pleasure of reading this book about her O'Kelley line of our family in its entirety.  This very large red covered volume is very impression, a great deal of time and resources were invested and at the time Harold O'Kelley wrote his book, the data was not "on line", his resources were available only by shoe leather and travel but when I began my journey in the spring of 2009 I had Google Books  to guide me as I began my "cold case" investigation of our ancestors.  To read Dr John O'Donovan's 1843 Tribes and Customs of Hy-Many, I had only to do a Google search and begin reading and since that time I have also read the many Vestry records from the places our ancestors live which are now on line.  Harold quotes Alethea Jane Macon a great deal, he had her previous work to aid his investigation so he started at a point greater than she but given Macon provides no evidence to support most of her claims about our early family, her book may have been more hindrance than help because it seems to have directed Harold's research in a predefined way.  That was not Alethea Jane Macon's fault that Harold accepted Macon's claim that Thomas was the name of our ancestor anymore than it is Harold O'Kelley's fault that some descendant today replicates William of Caroline Co as the father of Thomas.  In both author's defense I have years of training and experience in tracking people who are difficult to locate and analyzing the limited records they create as they lived so it must be expected that I might see something differently than Harold and we come to a different conclusions when we read the same data.  The fact that I disagree with some of his conclusions should not be taken as a criticism of a man who is clearly accomplished in his own right.  My training makes me unhampered by religion or the influence of my family, I don't really care if our ancestors were Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Baptists, or had no religion my only interest in my ancestor's religion is in how it might aid in unlocking data about them.  In Harold O'Kelley's book the religious overtones are obvious and understandable and in some cases I believe they have influenced his research taking him in a desired direction.  He was Baptist so he believed his ancestors were also Baptist and that appears to have limited the scope of his research.  I don't disagree with his data, but I do have reservations about some of his conclusions based upon his data just as surely as some will disagree with my conclusions about my data.  Harold seems to believe that our shared first grandfather who came to America would act and think the way we might act or think and that could not be further from the truth.  We know Harold would not have traded a daughter for a cow but that is the life our shared grandfather lived even at that late date.  In 1750 our ancestors believed it was Christian to own and work slaves and husbands were selected for daughters by their father in what was most often a financial transaction.  In his book Harold says our ancestor and Ms Dean met and married in King and Queen County but he fails to understand how difficult it would be for an Irish born native to marry an English descended woman so I suspect the O'Kelley and Deane connection began in Ireland and not in Virginia. 

Harold's body of work may be more important for what he is unable to prove than what he could prove.  I don't think J Fred O'Kelly or Alethea Jane Macon did much research, I think they mostly took what others told them and published it.  Harold  clearly conducted an investigation, he hired professional researchers to aid him and he used his training and education to try to make sense of it all and in the end, very little was found and that too is important because it tells us what doesn't exist. No records were found to prove that Thomas O'Kelley was the name of our ancestor.

There is a  golden nugget for me found in Harold's book and it concerns the the source of Alethea Jane Macon's best evidence claim that Thomas was the name of our immigrant ancestor and that leads me to the 1938 book by John Gwathney titled "Historical Register of Virginians in the Revolution" which records the service of Lt William D O'Kelly and Lt Thomas D O'Kelly.  The DAR gives this published source as Alethea Jane Macon evidence that my grandfather Charles serving in the 8th Virginia.  I think this may have also been Alethea Jane Macon "best evidence".  To his credit Harold tracked Lt Thomas D O'Kelley to its source and shared in his book that Lt Thomas D was a mistake, that he was Lt William D O'Kelly.  I think Harold unknowingly discovered Macon's "best evidence".  

Harold also found in the court records a merchant William Kelley in Caroline Co Virginia that he believed might be our ancestor's father.  My research suggest that William Kelley the Merchant was the brother of our ancestor and he was the son of William Kelly merchant and gentleman who died in Kells Ireland in 1748.  I think it likely William paved the way for our ancestor to bring his young family to the portion of King and Queen that became Caroline Co Virginia.

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