My Irish Ancestor
his first American born sons

James O'Kelley
Anna Dean

August 12, 2022, by email I received notice from Family Tree DNA that I had a new 111 marker match and I soon learned that this match was with a traceable descendent of Benjamin O'Kelley and his wife Mary Williams and the results totally changed all the well accepted family trees of my family. 

The DNA results of descendents of Thomas, Charles, and Benjamin all indicate that they were cousins of different degrees and not brothers.  Without a DNA test from a descendent of Francis I can no longer trust that he and my 4th great grandfather Charles were brothers, it might be they were very close 1st cousins.  The DNA results suggest that Benjamin was likely a 4th or 5th cousin to Charles and perhaps a 6th or 7th cousin to Thomas and Thomas and Charles were likely 1st or 2nd cousins at best.  Because the maternal name "Dean" runs in the line of Thomas, Charles and Francis and doesn't appear in the line of Benjamin who is clearly distanced from Thomas, Charles, and Francis, I have great doubts that Anna Dean could have been the mother of Benjamin. 

DNA has opened a new chapter in our family journey and what we need now to help complete that journey is for a traceable male descendent of Francis and of Rev James O'Kelley to test their DNA to see where they fit within our family tree. 

Written before August 12, 2022. 

Authors J Fred O'Kelly, Alethea Jane Macon and Harold Ernest O'Kelley informed their readers that Thomas, George, William, Charles, Benjamin, and Francis were brothers and their parents were the Irish immigrant Thomas O'Kelley and his wife Elizabeth Dean but these three authors provided no supporting documents or sources and my intense investigation which also incudes DNA has failed to uncover any proof that a Thomas O'Kelley existed at the time Elizabeth Dean's husband would have lived and because the name is most often represented in the descendants as "Thomas Dean O'Kelley" I think this is solid evidence that "Thomas" originates from Thomas Dean the father of Anna Dean.  My investigation concludes that the pedigree for Thomas O'Kelley and Elizabeth Dean and their sons didn't exist in print before 1966 and originated first in J Fred O'Kelly's 1966 and later in Alethea Jane Macon's 1969 publications and based upon their source credits given in their books I believe both authors obtained much of their family pedigree from Effie Kate O'Kelley but I think on the subject of the name of our ancestor that there was likely disagreement between Effie Kate O'Kelley and Alethea Jane Macon and because of this disagreement Alethea Jane Macon gives her "best evidence" as her only statement about it in her book.  J Fred O'Kelly leaves the subject of our ancestor's name open.

Author Harold Ernest O'Kelley in his 1985 book accepted the conclusion of Alethea Jane Macon that our immigrant ancestor's name was Thomas and he seemed to do so without asking the question, "what proof did Alethea Jane Macon have and why did she not share her proof or as she said in her book her "best evidence" with her readers allowing them to decide?  What puzzles me most about the published works of these three authors is if Thomas, George, and William were the names of the first three sons born to my immigrant ancestor, the son's names are overlooked clues as it is well accepted by professional genealogist that the naming tradition was to name the first two sons after their paternal and maternal grandfathers and the third son after his father and since the name Thomas most often appears as Thomas Dean O'Kelley and Dean never appears as a middle name of descendants that were named James, George or William O'Kelley I believe the evidence supports that Thomas, given by these authors as the first born son must have been named after Nancy Dean's father making George who is given as the second born son the name of our immigrant ancestor's father and William given as the third son named after his immigrant father.  It is certainly possible that both grandfathers were named Thomas but that name doesn't appear in the sons of Charles and Benjamin.  But I don't think our ancestor could be named George as it isn't a name carried down in the first American born grandsons and I don't think George was named after George Washington because at the time of George O'Kelley's birth Washington was a very young man who had done nothing to justify the naming of a son after him; George Washington's popularity and fame came later but George and William O'Kelley seem to disappear so I have great doubts and think it is more likely that George O'Kelley born in 1752 never existed and he was just confused with Charles O'Kelley's son who was named George Washington O'Kelly born 1783 and died in Madison Co Georgia in 1850.  Author Harold Ernest O'Kelley found records for George Washington O'Kelly in Georgia and in his book he confused him with the George O'Kelley said to have been born in 1752.

None of the publish authors seem to be aware that about 1908 Dr Thomas K O'Kelley of the Benjamin O'Kelley family copied a family pedigree from an unidentified ancestors bible that names James O'Kelley and Anna Dean as the name of our ancestor to come from Ireland to America.  These authors also seem to be unaware that from the Francis O'Kelley Family that Mary Evelyn O'Kelley wrote a college paper for her Masters Degree in the 60s where she presents:

“There was a man, James O’Kelley, with six sons.  (landed in Virginia 1815)  Three of the sons were married and the other three did not get married.  All three of the married sons moved to the state of Georgia, and all the O’Kelleys that are now in the state of Georgia, and all the O’Kelleys we have been able to trace in ancestry that knew anything about it were traceable back – all the O’Kelleys in the United states that we could find – were traced back to one of those three sons in the state of Georgia.”  Note- the 1815 date is how this information came to me but documents dispute this date, he came likely about 1720. 

None of the published authors seem to be aware that in the Elon University James O'Kelly Collection there exists a Pedigree for the Rev James O'Kelly created in 1936 by John Daniel McCurty that lists William D, Thomas D and John as the brothers of the famed Rev James O'Kelly founder of the Christian Church and that Pedigree gives the date that their father came to America as about 1720 and that he died in Chatham Co NC.

After more than 7 years of intensive investigation and the spending of more than two thousand dollars I have come to conclude that the Dr Thomas K O'Kelley pedigree created about 1908, the John Daniel McCurry Pedigree of Rev James O'Kelly created in 1936, the J Fred O'Kelly's 1966 pedigree and the 1969 Alethea Jane Macon pedigree all contain mostly accurate data, they are about different families that are related as uncles, nephews, and cousins.  I conclude that James O'Kelley born about 1710 who appears in the Dr Thomas K O'Kelley 1908 Pedigree was my ancestor who came from near Tara in Co Meath as Ruth Barton Pullium stated and James O'Kelley's great, great grandfather was Thomas O'Kelley born about 1540 and in the last quarter of the 1500s under the English Tudor Monarchs Tomas Ó Ceallaigh as his name would appear in Ireland at that time was a Gentleman forced under the penalty of confiscation to take the oath of supremacy, abandon his Catholic faith and become Protestant, spell his surname in English as Thomas Kelly and raise his children in the English custom in his attempt to hold on to his lands and his gentry title and I believe that it is this Thomas than Macon confused to be James O'Kelley who left Ireland.  Ruth Barton Pullium was the granddaughter of Salina O'Kelley who was the granddaughter of Thomas O'Kelley and Salina O'Kelley was the great granddaughter of our ancestor, she was a forth generation just like Alethea Jane Macon's "Aunt Bettie" so Salina would have been in position to know where we came from in Ireland and my closest DNA matched cousins are found 4 miles from Tomas Ó Ceallaigh so this also support that my ancestors came from the Co Meath area of Ireland.  Based upon my intense investigation I think it was as Dr Thomas K O'Kelley pedigree suggests, James O'Kelley came to America likely as a child possibly with an older relative and married Nancy Dean who was also born about 1710 and she was remembered in Dr Thomas K O'Kelley's Pedigree by her nickname "Anna" and they had children.  

Rick O'Kelley

Pedigree as suggested by  DNA, documents and my research

DNA testing proves my ancestors were native Irish and not Scots Irish and in Ireland these two groups were most often mortal enemies because the Scots Irish were Scottish or English descended people planted in Ireland by both conquest and King James and DNA proves my ancestors come from the Clann Kelly of Co Fermanagh who descend from Irish Monarchs who had been in Ireland for thousands of years.  The DNA testing of a traceable descendent of Thomas Dean O'Kelley and two traceable descendents of Charles Dean O'Kelley make it very unlikely that Thomas and Charles of the Alethea Jane Macon Pedigree were brothers and more likely that Thomas Dean O'Kelley was the uncle and and Charles Dean O'Kelley was his nephew.  DNA testing of Ronnie L O'Kelley who I believe is a possible descendent of Rev James O'Kelly supports the possibility that Thomas Dean O'Kelley and Rev James O'Kelly may have been brothers. The DNA possibility that Rev James O'Kelly and Thomas Dean O'Kelley were brothers is also supported by "Lives of Christian ministers: over two hundred memoirs" by Peter Jeferson Kernolde P 1909 where the author claims that Rev James O'Kelly was the ancestor of Thomas Dean O'Kelley's sons Rev James O'Kelley, Rev John O'Kelley and grandson Rev Francis Dean O'Kelley.

US Census documents and naming traditions make it more likely that the father of Charles Dean O'Kelley was William Dennis O'Kelley the older brother of Rev James O'Kelly


It is from "A Patchwork of Memories, a Knowles/O’Kelley genealogy" a 1976 book published by Judith Ries a descendent of Dr Thomas K O'Kelley that we learn that James O'Kelley our ancestor was a minister likely born around 1710 and from my DNA research I find it likely his birth was in Co Meath Ireland and he was a descendant of the Clann Kelly of southern Co Fermanagh that moved to Co Meath and became the O'Kelley of Bregia, one of the four tribes of Tara and "Styled Princes" and he was likely the son of William Kelly Esquire, a merchant in Kells Co Meath Ireland who died in 1748.   It seems certain he was of the Irish Gentry with title and money as his sons and daughters married the Tuckers and Crowders who were founding families of Virginia, their ancestors can be traced back to Captain William Tucker 1621 and Hugh Crowder 1619 Charles City VA so it seems very unlike these daughters would have been permitted to marry poor common Irish.  If my ancestor came to Virginia in 1720 as some suggest then he came as a minor child likely with an older relative and there is such a possibility as there was a Thomas and Honora Kelly born about 1669 who came to America with 5 minor children in 1690 and settled on the Huguenot John Pleasants plantation located in Henrico Co Virginia along the James River which was very near Manakin Va a place that became a huge Huguenot settlement.  Thomas and Honora Kelly could be James O'Kelley's grandparents and my ancestors may have been in America much longer than thought and that could account for the acceptance of my native Irish family by the Scots Irish as these two were often bitter enemies in Ireland.  Two of Thomas Dean O'Kelley's sons married Nancy and Elizabeth Chastain and the Chastains can be traced back to the Huguenot in Henrico Co VA and this is the same area that the Deans settled.

James O'Kelley married (Nancy) Anna Dean about 1727 and I reference her as Nancy that is the name that appears with some grandchildren.  She may have been born in Co Meath Ireland where the "Dane" surname was common and the marriage took place there or she was more likely the daughter of a Thomas Dean and there are two, one is found in the records living on the James River near the Huguenot settlements and the other in Prince George Co where the Crowders lived.   In Lunenburg County, VA is found a Charles Dean a sizeable land owner.   Charles Dean O'Kelley and Francis O'Kelley are found living in Mecklenburg County which was formed from the eastern half of Lunenburg Co VA.

I think it is certain that James and Anna are the parents of the famed Rev James O'Kelly who found the Christian Church in North Carolina and I look to the Pedigree created by John Daniel McCurry in 1936 which gives the names of 3 of his brothers, William D (Dennis), Thomas D (Dean) and John but I am certain that John Daniel McCurry's pedigree just isn't complete, that many of Rev James's siblings are missing.    

Rev James O'Kelly says almost nothing about his parents. What we do know is he lived at Mecklenburg at the time that Charles and Francis O'Kelley listed in Macon's Pedigree lived there. 

John Daniel McCurry a descendent of Rev James O'Kelly created a Pedigree in 1936 and his Pedigree records Thomas D (Dean), William D (Dennis), and John as brothers of Rev James O'Kelly.  John also gives Rev James as born in Mecklenburg Virginia but I don't think that can be supported.
James O'Kelley and (Nancy) Anna Dean were likely married about 1727 maybe in Ireland as there were Deanes (Danes) living in Co Meath, some very near Kells at the time James O'Kelley may have lived there.  It seems a lot more probably that James would marry an Irish born woman than arriving in America and marrying an English descended American born woman but if he was well accepted among the Scots Irish such a marriage may have been possible.

James O'Kelley and (Nancy) Anna Dean had the following children:

+1 i.   William D (Dennis) O'Kelley   Suggested by DNS test of Rick O'Kelley and John O'Kelley, numerous census and National Archive records, Family Pedigree of Rev James O'Kelly and the naming of Charles Dean O'Kelley's first born son
+2 ii.   Rev James O'Kelly  (Family Pedigree of Rev James O'Kelly) founder of the Christian Church suggested by DNS test of Ronnie O'Kelley
+3 iii.   Elizabeth O'Kelley 1738 proven by Dr Thomas K O'Kelley Pedigree
+4 iv.   Polly Ann O'Kelley 1742 proven by Dr Thomas K O'Kelley Pedigree
+5 v.   Charles O'Kelley b 1746 proven by Dr Thomas K O'Kelley Pedigree  Uncle and namesake of Charles Dean O'Kelley
+6 vi.   Thomas Dean O'Kelley Suggested by DNA test of Samuel Joseph O'Kelley, & Pedigrees of Rev James O'Kelly & Dr Thomas K O'Kelley
+7 vii.   Benjamin O'Kelley   proven by Dr Thomas K O'Kelley Pedigree but disproven by DNA, Benjamin was a cousin many generations removed.
+8 viii.   Francis O'Kelley born 1760 uncle of France O'Kelley the brother of Charles Dean O'Kelley
+9 ix.   George Washington O'Kelley 1763 I have doubts about this person who appears in the Dr Thomas K O'Kelley Pedigree
+10 x.   John O'Kelley proven by Family Pedigree of Rev James O'Kelly

There were so many Benjamin Franklin O'Kelleys in our family line that it is difficult to now of the Benjamin O'Kelley given in the Thomas K O'Kelley Pedigree is one person or perhaps two, a brother of Rev James O'Kelley and a younger second Benjamin who was the son of William D (Dennis) O'Kelley.   



Source: Rick O'Kelley  **Source for Dean being the middle name of Charles O'Kelley is the website, I have found no proof nor can the Webmaster tell me his source. 

My Irish Ancestors

It has always been assumed that Thomas, Charles, Francis, and Benjamin could not read because they used marks as their signatures but according to Harold B Gill strong> Literacy in Virginia it wasn't uncommon for rural children to be taught to read but not taught to write.  I have found references in the Vestry Records of Virginia that the law required parents to teach their children to read and some children were taken from their parents and made wards of others because their parent failed to obey the law.  Harold Ernest O'Kelley comments that Rev James O'Kellys writing appeared to be labored and self taught and that is likely how many rural children came to write, they did it by self teaching but we need to remember they had little need to write.  Postal services were limited so what would be the need to spend a lot of time learning a skill you would rarely use?  

The James O'Kelley and Anna Dean pedigree came to me via Judith Knowles Reis a descendent of Benjamin Kelly in the telling of a story from her father about five pages of paper passed to her that are reported to have been written in the hand of her great grandfather, Dr Thomas K O'Kelley b 1833.  It was said that Dr O'Kelley needed proof of age for his Civil War pension application so he removed from an old dictionary five blank pages which he copied information that he obtained from an unknown ancestor's bible then he slipped the pages into his old family bible and presented it to a notary who created a single page document about his examination of the bible and that was submitted to our government as proof of Dr Thomas K O'Kelley's age for his pension and today that document is in our National Archives.  I have examined copies of these five pages and compared the handwriting with known examples of Dr Thomas K O'Kelley's handwriting found within his 1904 Civil War pension application that I obtained from our National Archives.  Based upon my training from the Institute of Applied Science in handwriting analysis and my experience as a document examiner while working in law enforcement, it is my opinion that these five pages were likely written by the person who identified himself in his application as Dr Thomas K O'Kelley making these pages the only known documents I have seen written by a grandson of Benjamin O'Kelley.  If the copies I have seen are the pages that the notarized document describes as being inside the bible then it is certain that these five pages were created before November 23 1908.  Even if they are not, the pages had to be created before Dr Thomas K O'Kelley death in 1923 and that predates the books of J Fred O'Kelly and Alethea Jane Macon by 60 years making these pages the oldest known pedigree written in the hand of an O'Kelley representing our O'Kelley family.

So is the data that appears upon Dr Thomas K O'Kelley's pages valid?  I find some conflicts with public documents and records and as an experienced Criminal Investigator I remind researchers that the stated motive of Dr Thomas K O'Kelley for creating these five pages was not the same motives of J Fred O'Kelly, Alethea Jane Macon and Harold Ernest O'Kelley.  These authors were seeking the identity of our ancestors and their works were subjected to the "peer review" of their relations.  Dr Thomas K O'Kelley was said to have created his five pages ONLY to satisfy the proof of age requirements for a pension and he then apparently never shared the data in a public way so his data never received "peer review" but if his data was already widely accepted as true during his lifetime, there would have been no need for him to make it public so I must weigh this and the possibility that some of his data might have just been created or made up maybe from stories he was told, after all the people evaluating his pension application had no ability to determine if Dr Thomas K O'Kelley's data was based in fact or if it was fabricated so there was little incentive for him to seek accuracy.  I find no evidence that he continued his family research after he created these documents and that too must be weighed and it is my understanding the pages become public long after Dr O'Kelley had passed and quite by chance.  Lastly I am left with questions, "if this data came from an ancestor's bible, why isn't this data more widely known by other family members;  what happened to this bible that he was able to find yet no one else has any knowledge or can identify"?  These are the questions an attorney might ask in a court if this data was put on trial before a jury.  Based upon my four year investigation, I believe the bulk of the data contained upon the five pages that Dr Dr Thomas K O'Kelley created are valid most because all the sons born to our ancestor named a son James and only two named a son Thomas.  I think that even Benjamin his son "James Solomon O'Kelley" and the James got dropped he was just known as Solomon and I base my belief on "James Solomon O'Kelley" the son of Hugh Lee O'Kelley who was the second son of Solomon.

Alethea Jane Macon and J Fred O'Kelly both made mention in their books that some believed James was the name of my Irish immigrant ancestor but I must point out that both authors wrote and sought information mostly about Charles and Francis O'Kelley and the related families that intermarried with their descendants. MyPainted by Fredrick Henry O'Kelley investigation of Dr Thomas K O'Kelley's James O'Kelley and Anna Dean brought me to the Fredrick Henry O'Kelley family of Conyers GA.  I can connect this family to Macon by the Coat of Arms image that appears in the beginning of Macon's book, that image was the same image that Fredrick Henry O'Kelley painted giving copies to his descendants and a photo of his painting appears to the right.  The true origin of that image is unknown but it is likely that it became associated with our family by Thomas Dean O'Kelley, the father of Fredrick Henry O'Kelley as Thomas traveled to Ireland in 1883 and in the lifetime of Charles O'Kelly Esq of NewTown in the Co of Galway Ireland and Charles O'Kelly is one of three only known lines of O'Kellys appearing in Burkes Landed Gentry to use this Coat of Arms where the Enfield is Passant or with a leg raised as walking.  All the other lines of Irish O'Kellys use a coat of arms with the Enfield is Statant meaning it has all four legs planted firmly upon the ground and while this appears to be a minor detail, it is the minor details that often result in the solving of most investigations. 

Thomas Dean O'Kelley was the father of Mrs. Carl C Walker or Kate O'Kelley and she is the only descendant of Francis and Delilah O'Kelley that Alethea Jane Macon thanks in her book and Alethea Jane Macon states on the bottom of page 4 in her book "From the Francis O'Kelley branch of the family have come the names of the six son" so it seems likely Kate O'Kelley Walker is Macon's source for the well accepted O'Kelley Pedigree naming the six brothers; Thomas, George, William, Charles, Benjamin, and Francis but Macon is less clear about the origins of Thomas O'Kelley and Elizabeth Dean causing me to wonder if Kate believed our ancestor was named James as Kate's brother Fredrick Henry O'Kelley had a daughter, Mary Evelyn O'Kelley, and she wrote a college paper for her Masters Degree in the 60s where she presents:

“There was a man, James O’Kelley, with six sons.  (landed in Virginia 1815)  Three of the sons were married and the other three did not get married.  All three of the married sons moved to the state of Georgia, and all the O’Kelleys that are now in the state of Georgia, and all the O’Kelleys we have been able to trace in ancestry that knew anything about it were traceable back – all the O’Kelleys in the United states that we could find – were traced back to one of those three sons in the state of Georgia.”  Note- the 1815 date is how this information came to me but documents dispute this date, he came likely about 1748. 

The belief that James O'Kelley was the name of our ancestor does just appear in the pages of Dr Thomas K O'Kelley the grandson of Benjamin Kelly but also in the line of Francis O'Kelley.  Both Judith Knowles Reis a descendant of Benjamin and Mary Evelyn O'Kelley a descendant of Francis come from lines with medical doctors and doctors often tend to take an interest in their genealogy  and both family pedigrees claim James O'Kelley and not Thomas O'Kelley was our ancestor.   Outside of Alethea Jane Macon, I am aware of no pedigrees that name Thomas as the ancestor who left Ireland and came to America.

Rev James O'Kelly and Rev James O'Kelley the son of Thomas

We have a bit of luck as we have a drawing of Rev James O'Kelly who founded the Christian Church in North Carolina and we have a tintype photo of Rev James O'Kelley his nephew and the son of Thomas O'Kelley.  They favor in many ways.  The eyes, nose, and the same turned own mouth.  Even the furrows between the eyes are similar.  There heads are shaped closely the same as you can see when I lay one photo on top of the other.  Forty and maybe 50 years separate their birth.

Rev James O'Kelly (the uncle) Rev James O'Kelley (the nephew) One on top of the other

In the book "Finding your Irish Roots.." by Stephanie Varney we learn the Irish naming customs.

  1. The oldest son was named after his father's father.  Charles named his son William, Frances named his son James and I believe he was named after Rev James O'Kelley the founder of the Christian Church and who was living in Mecklenburg and may have married Francis and Delilah, Thomas named his son Francis, and Benjamin named his son Solomon after Solomon Williams, but there is evidence that suggest he may have named his son James Solomon O'Kelley.

  2. The oldest daughter was named after the mother's mother.  Charles named his daughter Elizabeth Dean, Francis names his daughter Martha, Thomas names his daughter Ann, and Benjamin named his daughter Annie.

  3. The second son was named after the mother's father.  Charles named his son George Washington which could be after both George Crowder and George Washington, Francis named his son Francis Dean, Thomas named his son Thomas Dean which if DNA continues to indicate Thomas was a cousin I think the Dean name in his descendants supports the possibiity that Thomas may have a a first wife who was also a Dean, and Benjamin named his son Francis Marion who was the second most famous Revolutionary War Hero with George Washington being the first.

  4. The third son was named after the father.  Charles named his son Benjamin F likely after the very popular Benjamin Franklin, Francis named his son George likely after George Crowder his father-in-law, Thomas named his son James who later became a minister in the Christian church established by the previously mentioned and famous Rev James O'Kelley the founder of the Christian church and Benjamin named his son Nimrod after Nimrod Williams.

  5. The fourth son was named after the father's oldest brother.  Charles named his son James, Francis named his son Thomas, Thomas named his son William, and Benjamin named his son Charles.

  6. The second daughter was named after the father's mother.  Charles named his daughter Frances, Francis named his daughter Delilah, Thomas named his daughter Mary, and Benjamin named is daughter Elizabeth.

  7. The third daughter was named after the mother.  Charles named this his daughter Mary, Francis named his Mary, Thomas named his daughter Sarah, and Benjamin had no additional daughters.

  8. The fourth daughter was named after the mother's oldest sister.  Charles named his daughter Nancy, Francis had no additional daughter, and Thomas named his daughter Nancy.

What we do not know but must consider is we do not know if there were children born before these children, could have been named and then died and were forgotten by later generations.  There could have been more wives and more brothers. 

I have also noticed that people most often name children as a way of seeking favor.  For example if a mother was very fond of her grandfather, a son seeking the favor of his mother may name a child after her grandfather, this seems more true when the father of that son has already passed.  Politics doesn't just appear in those seeking office, it also appears in most normal families. 

**Source for Dean being the middle name of Charles O'Kelley is the website.