Tara County Meath Ireland
Ireland is a land of myth, fairies, leprechauns, and legend.  Where knights were called "Champions" the "Land of Éire" was thought to be a mystical land and sometimes one needs science to break through fantasy and for that I turned to DNA testing.

Records can only take me back to Charles Dean O'Kelley, my 4th great grandfather, who appears on a 1779 Mecklenburg Militia roster where a cousin of Thomas Jefferson, an officer in the militia is given as his substitute.  My family creatly were not common Irish because the one inescapable truth found in my closest DNA matches is Charles Dean O'Kelley's father is the only one to come from Ireland before 1750 AD with his "O" surname intact and he came to America with a story that he was from Co Meath and descended from the "Hy-Kings of Ireland", descended from the "Ard Rí" of Ireland a story often repeated at our family gathers when I was a child.  My family is one of the few lines that are still "O'Kelley" today and that is likely because of my family's claim to be of the "Hy-Kings of Ireland".  I suspect our family retained our O'Kelley name for the same reason most O'Neill retained their Irish spelling, to remind us of our kingly ancestors and there are tradition stories in Ireland that claim that the families with the "O" prefix descend from Irish Kings but modern researchers doubt that claim but I have found that most stories have some basis in truth.  My DNA results connects members of my O'Kelley family displayed on this website to ancient Ireland, that is a proven certainty.  The rest is determined by DNA matches, records, books, and family tradition stories that Tomas Ó Ceallaigh, Gentleman found living in Co Monaghan not that far from Glaslough in 1591 was our first Protestant Ancestor and his great, great grandson James O'Kelley was my ancestor who lived in Co Meath Ireland some say near Tara and he left Ireland sometime after the Great Frost of 1740 and the Famine that followed in 1741 that killed 38% of the Irish population, a starvation that was greater than the more well known Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s.  By 1748 my ancestor is settled near his older brother William Kelley a Merchant in the area of King and Queen County that became Caroline Co Virginia.   My closest DNA matches support this probability.  I believe Tomas Ó Ceallaigh pronouced Thomas O'Kelley, in the last quarter of the 16th century in an effort to keep land and title Thomas was compelled by the Queen's Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to do as the Chiefs in western Ireland were compelled by the Tudor Monarchs and became Anglican or Protestant, began to spelled his name in English as "Thomas Kelly" and raised his children in English ways.  I suspect he or maybe even his father or grandfather before him were forced to give up their lands in Co Meath and they resettled in Co Monaghan about 1588. It must be understood that in that time only the Gaelic Gentry converted, the common Irish remained Catholic.  Two published sources claim James O'Kelley was an Episcopal Minister in the Church of England and it is well documented that his eldest son was an Methodist Episcopal minister in the Church of England in America, another son is well documented as an officer, a Captain with the 4th Virginia, another son in his revolutionary pension application states the prove of his birth appears in the King and Queen Co Parish Church records. It seems certain that James was the son of William Kelly Esq a merchant in Kells who died in 1748 or the year it was said my ancestor left Ireland and came to Virginia.  I think William Kelly of Kells was the grandson of Protestant Thomas and Juan O Kelly found in the 1663 records in Carrickmacross and the great grandson of the William Kelly, "Gentleman" found on page 571 in "The History of County Monaghan" also a Protestant receiving land confiscated in 1640  taken from a Hugh McMahan a Papist.  

Ruth Barton Pullium who descends from William Barton -5, Salina O'Kelley -4, William O'Kelley -3, Thomas O'Kelley -2,  James and Anna O'Kelley -1 shared in Genforum August 29 2000 her family story from her father handed down by his mother Salina O'Kelley that our ancestors came from Co Meath.  Ruth passed away at the age of 93 in 2012 but what she shared can be supported by my closest DNA matches and I think because this tradition story still lives in my family that indicates that my ancestor came directly from Co Meath knowing his family's history and he didn't come from some other place in Ireland and the story was handed down to him.  The tradition that our family was "prominent" and descend from the Kings of Ireland was supported in the stories handed down in my youth by my own ancestors about my family's use of the surname O'Kelley and our descent from the "Old Irish Kings" and my ancestors began appearing in the records during our revolutionary war as "O Kelley" and our tradition claims we always used O'Kelley and it was just recorded incorrectly as Kelly in the records of that time.  I know of only one other line of Kellys that appears as O'Kelley near the time of our Revolution and they can trace their descent back to David O Killia of the O'Kellys of Hy-Many a kingly line from Co Roscommon Ireland.  Like these Hy-Many O'Kelleys I think we too continued to use O'Kelley to separate us from the common Kellys living in Virginia and to be a reminder to future generations that we descend from the O'Kelley of Tara who were described as "Styled Princes" meaning that members of our family were qualified to be Irish Monarchs by their birth .  There was a tradition recorded in a reprinted 1889 article from the Irish Times that Irish surnames that begin with "O" indicate descent from Irish Kings but the article disputes this is truth but I have always found that some truth remains hidden in many of these tradition stories and it does seem to be true for my family line just as it was for those who descend from the O'Kelly of Hy-Many, we maintained the "O" in our name with the tradition that we descend from "old Irish Kings" while other Kellys didn't. 

Our most noted family historian Alethea Jane Macon's claimed that our Irish ancestor to come to America was Thomas O'Kelley, but I think we must be reminded that Macon provides no proof and I now think that her "best evidence" came from a corrupted story about Thomas O'Kelley being our first Irish ancestor to be Protestant as Judith Knowles Ries who descends from John V Knowles -7, Emma D O'Kelley -6, Zachariah Asbury O'Kelley -5, Dr. Thomas Katlett O'Kelley -4, Francis Marion O'Kelley -3, Benjamin O'Kelley -2, James and Anna O'Kelley -1 possess a five page hand written Family Pedigree created in 1904 by Dr. Thomas Katlett O'Kelley making it the oldest known Pedigree of my family and it is said to be copied from an ancestor's bible that names our ancestor as "James O'Kelley of Ireland" so there are many reasons to believe this pedigree is true and the stories, the naming of the children, our protestant faith and DNA are valid indicators that my ancestors were Irish Gentry, the O'Kelley of Tara who did as the English demanded and moved from Co Meath to Co Monaghan, became protestant and over the centuries slowing migrated from Co Monaghan back to Co Meath until William Kelly was living as a merchant and a Gentleman in Kells Co Meath Ireland.  Our Irish story seems to end with him and our America story begins with his son James O'Kelley who was likely as some have claimed, an Episcopal Minster of the English Church and I believe married Nancy Dean in Ireland and their son Rev James O'Kelly and maybe even Thomas was born in Ireland and they came to America when William Kelly died in 1748.  With this history I turned to DNA to break through the wall constructed by tradition and a lack of records

My Closest DNA Match Cousins
Our Shared Ancestors lived in the 13th, 15th, & 16th Century

If one isn't willing to consider their family history and their surname might be false, I don't recommend they do a DNA test but if you truly want to discover your ancestors, DNA can help but surnames haven't been around that long, they came into being about 1000 AD and for the same purpose as Social Security Numbers, as a means to identify who paid their taxes and who owed their taxes.  Before that time humans used tribal names to identify their non related group of people who lived in a common place and depended upon each other for defense.  The "kingly" lines had more non related members than the lower noble lines.  I turned to DNA because one of the problems with the O'Kelley surname is "Ceallaigh" pronounced "Kelley" was a common name in Ireland so it stands to reason that many non related families might take the "grandson of Kelley" or O'Kelley as their surname and DNA seems to support this is true.  Many of my closest DNA matches either dropped the "O" or "Mac" from their surname or changed their surname entirely but my family has always claimed that we came as O'Kelley descendants of "old Irish Kings" and all my ancestor's sons started appearing in records after our Revolutionary War as "OKelly" while other Kellys around them remained as Kelly.  To find the O'Kelley that my family belongs I had to look at my DNA matches to the more rare and regional surnames and look at their records to find my O'Kelley family.  It was the Maguires the Princes of Co Fermanage, the O'Boylans the Kings of Darty in Co Monaghan along the Clan Kelly border, the McConnells aka MacDonnells of Clan Kelly, and the Kearns of Coothill Co Cavan also along the Clan Kelly border that brought me to the O'Kelleys in Pages 189 and 190 of Dr John O'Hart's book "Irish Pedigree, Or, The Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation"

My DNA results, matches, and records suggest that Cairbre an Daimh Airgid King of Orgiall who died in 513 AD was my ancestor.  His descendents via his second son Cormac came to take the surname Maguire in about 1000 AD and they became Prince and ruling family of what came to be the Co Fermanagh, DNA suggest that my line descend from Daimhin who was the first son of Cairbre an Daimh Airgid King of Orgiall.   Daimhin 3rd great grandson was named Ceallach (Kelley) and so it was Daimhin's 5th great grandson who took the surname of O'Kelley after their Ceallach grandfather sometime in the 9th century.  My ancestor of my line was born before the ancestor of the Maguires, but it was the Maguires who became the Princes of all of Co Fermanagh and my ancestors became subornate or lesser kings of what came to be known as Clan Kelly in southern co Fermanagh. 

The sons of  King Donnell O'Kelley of Clan Kelley took to calling themselves MacDonnell or the sons of Donnell O'Kelley sometime in the 10th century and they appear to have dropped their O'Kelley surname soon after but fallen out of power I find in the records the MacDonnells became the McGonnells in the 16th and 17th century and I suspect they made this name change to avoid confusion with the always warring neighboring Scottish Galloglass clan O'Donnells.  In the 19th century the MacDonnells became McConnells. 

Cairbre an Daimh Airgid King of Orgiall is said to descend from Colla da Chrioch but DNA indicates that isn't true and there are some who believe the Three Collas are a myth.

I have several 111 marker DNA matches that make this likely.  My closest 111 marker DNA cousin is Forest Boylen Kannard, we are a genetic distances of 7 markers apart, there is a 90% probability that we share a common ancestor in the past 1000 years. The O'Boylans were the Kings of Darty in Co Monaghan along its border with Co Fermanagh and were one of several families of ClanKelly.  Forrest has a pending Big Y.

I am also 7 markers distance from John J Kearns and some of is family trace his ancestor Patrick Kearns birth to 1827 to an Edward Kearns Cootehill Co Cavan which borders Darty and is only a few miles from the Barony of ClanKelley and Co Fermanagh.  Kearns is my only match to have tested his Big Y and we are both R-BY20936, this match is very reliable and occurred between 800 and 1000 AD in the time before surnames existed. 

I have two 111 marker and two 67 DNA marker matches to McConnells who I believe descend from #99 Donall the ruling family of ClanKelly who became the sons of Donall or the McDomhnaill which in English were McDonnell and eventually they changed their surname to McGoneil then to McConnell.

ClanKelly takes its name from Ceallach which is pronounced "Kelley" and Kelley the ancestor of the Boylens, Kearns, McConnells and O'Kelleys ruled over the area for a time in the 7th century and according to Dr John O'Hart's "Irish Pedigrees" it is from his son that all the Kellys of Ulster are said to descend.  The Irish didn't create the Barony ClanKelly, it was the English sometime after the 1172 AD invasion of Ireland that created the Barony named ClanKelly, I have found nothing to tell us that such a place existed before or how large it was or what its borders were but my DNA matches and the records associated with these matches and the writings or Dr John O'Hart and Dr John O'Donovan cause me to suspect that the O'Kelleys and their other surnames cousins lived and ruled over lands that extended from Co Fermanagh into modern day Counties Armagh, Cavan, Louth, Monaghan, and Meath.  On the map to the right, these lands were in Airgialla and Southern Ui Neill.  The Barony of ClannKelly established by the English after their 1172 AD invasion of Ireland was formed from from Ui Meith and a portion of Dartry both found in Airgialla on the map. According to the writings of Dr John O'Hart it was the descendants of a grandson named Donnell O'Kelley who ruled what eventually became the Barony of  ClanKelly and they took the surname MacDonnell and some of their children took O'Donnell and while it could be assumed that some eventually moved in Dough Parish Co Monaghan a short distance from ClanKelly following free land we can't assume that Dough Parish Co Monaghan wasn't part of ClannKelly, that they always lived there and the English reduced it when they created their Baronys.  These MacDonnells became the MacGoneil likely to show their loyalty to the O'Neils and some took the McConnell surname when they came to America.  In my 111 marker matches I am 8 markers distant from Thomas Vincent McConnell and 10 markers from Dennis McConnell.  I have 2 more McConnells in my 67 marker matches and this seems to indicate that we are all of ClannKelly. 

It is from this single page of Dr John O'Hart's Irish Pedigree that we find kinship of the of the O'Boylans, O'Kelleys, O'Kearns, and the MacDonnells or McGoneils or McConnells.  The McDonnells were Kings of ClanKelley, the O'Boylans were Kings of Darty which adjoined ClanKelley and while DNA suggest that my O'Kelley line came from Clan Kelly, my family tradition stories suggest that my ancestors moved from that place and became or were part of the O'Kelley of Northern Bregia one of the 4 lines of Clann Kelly cousins who were the "Styled Princes" of Tara; they were called "Styled Princes" because all these lines descend from the 141st Monarch of Ireland Aed of Slaine and thus were of a suitable blood line to be Irish Monarchs.
The O'Kelley of Bregia or Tara are recorded by John O'Dugan in 1372 AD as one of the four Princes of Tara and O'Dugan gives the O'Kelleys and the O'Connellys owning harbors which in the 1800s Dr John O'Donovan records were on the Shannon River but I have doubts this was true for the O'Kelley of Tara as their lands were in northern and eastern Bregia along the Irish Sea which is far from the river Shannon in the west.  The O'Connellys were in west Bregia and they may have had ports on the River Shannon.  Owning ports would have been a major source of income for both the O'Connellys and the O'Kelleys.

Dr John O'Donovan places the O'Kelleys which he calls the O'Kelley of Meath as located in the south at Naas along the Meath border with Kildare but this seems certain to be the Southern Bregia O'Kelleys which are some distance  from Tara and is far from where lands that most researcher attribute to the O'Kelley of Bregia which is east of Tara and north of Dublin, these locations are marked in yellow on the above map.  I suspect that by the time Dr John O'Donovan did his survey in the mid 1800s, all that remained of my family was a twisted and confused legend told by people who had little interest in the lines they believe to be extinct.  All my close DNA matches are in Co Cavan, Co Monaghan, and Co Dublin the places I would expect to find what was left of the O'Kelleys of Tara.  I have no DNA matches along the Kildare border or further south where I would expect to find them if my ancestors were once seated near Naas Co Kildare.

Some published researchers of my family believed that because of our "prominence" in Ireland that we must be the O'Kelly of Hy-Many but my DNA proves that William Boy O'Kelly of Hy-Many was not my ancestor.  Some Irish researchers claim the O'Kelley of Bregia are related to the O'Kelly of Hy-Many and DNA does suggest that I share a grandfather with the descendents of William Boy O'Kelly but that is 4000 years before the O'Kelley surname came into being so this indicates that we came to be O'Kelley from a Ceallach ancesto and the Hy-Many O'Kelly  from another Ceallach ancestor.  Ceallach was a common name but it is claimed by some that the Bregia and Hy-Many had a military alliance and it may even be possible that "The O'Kelley" was a title and position that was sometimes held by the O'Kelleys of Bregia in Meath and sometimes the O'Kellys of Hy-Many in Connaught and this might be the reason that most researchers believed we were O'Kelley of Hy-Many in Connaught, that these researchers knew something about a larger kingdom as Michael O'Laughlin of the Irish Roots Cafe is a noted and distinguish author and Irish researcher who in 2002 published "A Genealogical History of the Milesian Families of Ireland " and on page 7 he connects the O'Kelly of Hy-Many and the O'Kelley of Bregia as Ui Maine and suggest that "Chief" may have shifted and  came from both lines and he references them using the double "e" spelling of my name.  What is certain is DNA has proven that both didn't come from Maine Mor and there is some DNA  evidence to suggest neight line descends form Maine Mor.  There is some support that these two lines may have been closely aligned as found in the Hy-Many Pedigree during the time of the "Invasion" it listed at #24 Tadhg Tailten or Teige "Tailteann" meaning "Teige of Tailteann which was the place of the annual games that were older than the Olympics and always located in northwestern modern County Meath near the townland of Navan which in the time of Teige Tailtean the place was deep in the Bregia Kingdom and far from the borders of Hy-Many.  Teige's father #23 is also listed, so why would a Hy-Many King come from TailTean unless he was an O'Kelley of Bregia?  This causes me to suspect possibility that Hy-Many or Ui Maine and Bregia who were two completely different septs of O'Kellys were a united kingdom that extended from the east coast of Ireland and included Bregia and extended to the west coast of Ireland including all of what we think as Hy-Many today and with the coming of the English in 1172 AD that the eastern portion or "Brey" as Bregia was pronounce was lost and the power of the O'Kellys shifted entirely and forever to Hy-Many which was confined to the west of Ireland and now that they became the sole keepers of the history this became corrupted and lost. 

The only description we have of the boundaries of Hy-Many comes from Dr John O'Donovan's "Tribes and Customs of Hy-Many: O'Kelly Country" and that description comes from a single 19th century source that sets it mostly in Co Roscommon and Galway but on page 45 Dr O'Donovan makes a curious entry "The Race of Domhnall, so of Tadhg Taillten".  One should take into consideration that in the mid 1800s when Dr O'Donovan published his book, there were no known representatives of the O'Kelley of Bregia found living in Ireland so Dr O'Donovan turned to a single O'Kelly of Hy-Many source for his book, he may have come to a different conclusion if he had Bregia sources.  My question is if the well known traditional O'Kelly of Hy-Many Pedigree is about a single O'Kelly family, why the reference to "race" and why does it occur 8 years after the invasion when the Bregia O'Kelleys in the east would have been greatly reduced and driven out of power and maybe into near extinction by the English?  We may never find a method to know but if what I suspect is true it may be that Teige Mor O'Kelly who died in battle in 1014 at Clontarf could have been blood related to the Hy-Many line as the Pedigree indicates or he may have been blood related to the Bregia line and Teige Tailteann was his last descendent to appear in the Pedigree and the power shifted to Hy-many or neither might be true, there is no method to know for certain but it might explain why it is commonly believed that all O'Kellys and O'Kelleys originate from Teige Mor O'Kelly.  They all followed him into battle and claimed him as their king and some no related may have taken his surname as their own.

Sons of Goneil and Grandsons of Ceallaigh
"The McGoneil O'Kelley"
The "O'Kelley" Earl of Tyrone


DNA is unraveling mysteries that have long ago been lost.  I have three DNA matches to men named McConnell and in their research they are able to trace by records to men named McGonnell or McGoneill in older records and they are living in Donagh Parish in Co Monaghan in the 1826 Applotment records.  I believe the McGoneill were the McDonnell O'Kelley the ruling family of Clann Cheallaigh and they dropped the O'Kelley and retained the McDonnell and when they fell out of power they moved to Donagh parish which is barely 4 miles from where Thomas Kelly lived in 1591 at Corvally and that date is important because the first time the McGonell surname appears in English records is 1605 of a Priest Corb Manus McGonell of Calebegs appearing with two McConnells giving a description of ruins at a priory at Loughdarge.  The second mention in English records is a 1614 Royal Pardon where Hugh McGonell is living in the Barony of Trough and it should be remembered that Trough shares its eastern border with Barony Dungannon.  It is important to note this surname appears no where else in Ireland until the 1663 Hearth Money rolls where an Owen McGonnell is found living less than a mile from my protestant ancestor Thomas "O Kelly" at Carrickmaross but the bulk are still found at Donagh Parish near Glasslough where their descendents are still found in the 1826 Applotments.  So why would some McDonnells change their name to McGonnells? This is speculation but I suspect they were a religious sect that is found in the Annals of Ireland in 742AD less than 150 years after the death of my ancestor Irish Monarch Aed Slaine it is recorded:  "Ui-Briuin-Cualann.—A sept giving name to a territory comprising the greater part of the barony of Rathdown, in the present county of Dublin, and some of the north of the county of Wicklow. The churches of Cill-Inghine- Leinin, now Killiney, Tigh-Chonaill, now Sta- gonnell, and Dun-mor, are set down in O’Clery’s Irish Calendar as in this territory. —“A. D. 742."   The "Tigh-Chonaill or "Sta-Gonnell" means "House of Gonnell" who also descend from the Irish Monarch Aed Slaine and might be the "Priest" cousins of the O'Kelleys of Bregia, of Clann Cheallaigh . My DNA matches to three McConnell/McGonnell  we share a grandfther like long before surnames came in use and when my family became O'Kelley their became McDonnell.  The McGonnell established Castle Ard-goneil along the border of Dungannon

Earl of Tyrone Hugh "O'Kelley" O Neill
Recorded in the Annals of Ireland "The Great 'English' Earl" Hugh O Neill wasn't a blood descended O'Neill, he was according to Dr John O'Donovan the son of Mahon O Ceallaigh pronounced "Matthew O'Kelley" of the O'Kelley of Bregia or of Clann Kelley found in modern day southern Co Fermanagh.  His mother was Lady Joan McGuire the daughter of Lord Cuconnaugh McQuire of Fermanagh.  It was said that when Matthew's father died, Matthew was adopted by the 1st "English" Earl of Tyrone Conn O Neill and while adoption was a very common Gaelic custom it wasn't common for such a high born man as Earl Conn O'Neill to adopt anyone who wasn't always high born and who provided no political or monetary advantage.  Having descended from the O'Kelley of Bregia "Styled Princes of Tara Matthew O'Kelley and his sons would pass on their O'Kelley of Bregia Y DNA, the same Y DNA that was passed on to me from my own father but because there are no known living descendants of Hugh O Neil it isn't possible to conclude beyond all doubts that we are cousins but I do have a mysterious DNA match to a Patrick O'Neil so this might change in time.  Because Matthew descends from Irish Monarch Aed Slaine Dr John O'Donovan writes that the son of Matthew,  Hugh O'Kelley O Neill was more qualified by birth to be rightful ruler of all of Ireland than those of the O Neill bloodline.  When in 1542 King Henry VIII made Conn O'Neill the 1st Earl of Tyrone, he made ignored Conn's legitimate son Shane O'Neill and made Matthew "O'Kelley" O'Neill the Baron of Dungannon thus giving Matthew and his heirs the inherited right to the title of Earl of Tyrone.    Shane was only 12 at the time but when he grew into manhood he became furiour with his father and drove him out of his earldom and killed Baron Matthew "O'Kelley" O Niell thus the English title of Baron passed to Matthew's older son Brian so Shane O'Neills followers hunted him down and slew him and declared himself as "The O'Neill" the rightful King of Ulster. 

Some authors of O'Neil history would have us believe that Conn O Neale was deceived by Matthew O'Kelley's mother but Conn was King of Tyrone for 4 decades.  He married the daughter of Thomas Fitzgerald the 7th Earl of Kildare, he didn't rule for 4 decades so easily fooled.  Irish Kings had children by their concubines and they didn't inherit title so why would Hugh O Neill be any different, why would King of Tyrone Conn O Neale adopt a son of an O'Kelley of Bregia unless this son's father or mother was someone special to the O'Neals?  Everyone else seemed to know that Matthew was an O'Kelley, so how did Conn not know and if he knew, why did the First Earl, the most powerful man in Ulster adopt him?  Some speculate that the Tudor monarchs sought to break the power of the O Neills over Ulster by introducing an acceptable but more agreeable "Royal House", the O'Kelleys of Bregia into the leadership of Ulster and that may have been true because Queen Elizabeth protected young Hugh O'Neil, had him brought into the English controlled "Pale" where he was rasied in Engish ways.

After Shane O Neill's followers killed Brian the eldest son of Matthew "O'Kelley" O Neill, to protect Hugh "O'Kelley" O Neill who was still a child but the next in line to inherit the title of Earl of Tyrone Huge was taken by the English to the Pale and raised in an English family of a military officer spending his final year before manhood raised at Queen Elizabeth's court as the Baron of Dungannon.  It is said a great affection occurred between Hugh and the English Queen.  The English hoped that by returning him to Ulster Hugh O Neill would be a taming influence upon his kinsmen.  The young baron was returned to Ireland when he was 18 and it was a dangerous place but after the passing of a number of years he was made the 2nd Earl of Tyrone and it is said that "The Great Earl"  nephew General Owen O'Neil favored his O'Kelley of Bregia kinsman with the "prized" woods in the Clogher Dioceses and it is said he restored the woods to the O'Kelleys because it was theirs before the English invasion. (Ulster Journal of Archeology VIII Page 268" where I find my ancestor Thomas Kelly living in 1591.  This could explain how the Castle Ard-goneil came to be where it was built.  The Irish trusted kin above all else and the English began to suppress the Irish Catholic houses so it seems likely when the "Sta-Gonnell" were suppressed that the the 1st Earl of Tyrone, Conn O Neill allowed them to move to the River Cor on the edge of Dungannon where they build Castle Ard-goneil.  Irish Priest were often great warriors and great Irish warriors were sometimes Priest and most Irish Castles were really Abbeys with walls, and if the McGonnells Priest they likely helped build and lived around Castle Ard-goneil said to mean the "Height of Coneill".  They may have been there to help provide additional protection for Matthew O'Kelley O'Neil and in that time it would have been in the heart of the southern portion of 1st Earl of Tyrone Earldom so it made sense to have a Castle in that place but during Shane O Neill's time, Queen Elizabeth took Co Monaghan from the Earldom and shired it into Co Monaghan for settlement by "loyal" Irish and English subjects and this was the motivation for the "Nine Years War".  Castle Ard-goneil set on the Barony Dungannon side of River Corr so it remained within the Earldom of the 2nd Earl of Tyrone Hugh "O'Kelley" O Neill's lands.

Hugh was said to be a brilliant and modern general, he must have been, he almost did what no Irish had done before him, remove the English from Ireland.  He carried firearms as he made his rounds in his Earldom and offer peasants an opportunity to fire a weapon and if they displayed skill and an interest he would give them a firearm and provisions provided they promised to practice and respond when called upon so was likely the "Ard-Gonell" continued well into the 2nd Earl of O Neill's time.  The King of England had his "Privy Council", the pope has his inner circle of Cardinals so why shouldn't the man who though of himself as the King of Ireland have his "Ard-Goneill" who would have "O'Kelley Y-DNA and the restoration of the "Sta-Gonnell" or the religious "House of Gonnell" must have been part of O Neill's restoration of the Gaelic Order.  Those who lived at the Castle would move their families near the Castle and construct dwellings for them and their families would farm and settle the land and when the Earls fled Ireland in 1607 it is likely some stayed on manning the Castle and living around it on the Earl's promise he would return but when the Earl died, they likely abandoned the Castle, lost their dream and became famers some may have retaken their old surnames or took new ones but some surely some of the older children now young men remained McGonell and with the O Neales now in possession of the Barony of Dungannon I think it likely the O Neills occupied the Castle and didn't change the name, it remained the Castle Ard-goneil and eventually appeared as Castle Ardgonnell and because some who remained helped build the castle a story was passed down in their family that the Castle was named after them who built it and the history about their service and kinship to Earl Hugh O Neill became lost.  "Ard" might have even been a reference to Hugh O Neill's O'Kelley descent from the Irish Monarch Aedh Slaine.

There is still an unanswered question about a 12/12 DNA match to a mysterious Patrick George O'Neill who I have been unable to locate but his ancestor could have been an O'Kelley cousin who just took to calling himself "O Neill" because of his relationship with the great Earl Hugh O Neill. This is turning out to be a very good mystery.  Patrick only completed a 12 marker test and I can't have it upgraded without his consent so we might never know if he could be an unknown descendent of the 2nd Earl of Tyrone Hugh "O'Kelley" O'Neill, and I am not the one claiming that Hugh O'Neill is O'Kelley of Bregia, that conclusion comes from the notes of scholar Dr John O'Donovan.

The original O'Neill arms was the "Red Hand of Ireland" but I read that the "Great Earl Hugh O Neill introduced an arms with the two Rampart Lions.  Dual Rampart Lions are used by both by the O'Kelley of Bregia and the O'Kelly of Hy-Many.  I wonder who might have influenced who and if there has been a lost meaning for the use of dual rampart Lions.

There is mention of the Nine Kingdoms that came into being from the descendents of the Irish Monarch Aedh Slaine.  It should be noted that Dongh Parish Co Monaghan is said to be one of those nine kingdoms as was Carrickmacross Co Monaghan the place where my ancestors are found in the 1600s. 

The story of the O'Kelley of Bregia, the Great Earl Hugh "O'Kelley" O Neill, and our descent from Irish Monarch Aed Slaine made a surprising appearance in the 2011 fantasy children book "Kingdom of the Green Grass Straw" written by Vicki A King.

In one of those odd twists of fate, it is said on WiKi that Queen Elizabeth II is a descendant of the Earl of Tyrone Hugh "O'Kelley" O Neal and I haven't chased this rabbit down its hole but because DNA suggests the possibility that the Earl could have been my 10th great grandfather's second or third cousin making anyone blood related to me also cousins to the Queen, her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  I haven't proven this to be true.

One doesn't have to take my word for any of this, myself, my Uncle John O'Kelley, and Owen McConnell appear in R Group 15B in the Kelley DNA Project.  Owen actually appears in the 1826 records as McGonnell, he changed his name to McConnell when he left Ireland and settled in America.  You will not see some of my close matches only because they chose not to join the Kelley DNA Project but I can see their matches in my Family Tree Account.

I make my research public to encourage the research of others hoping someone may produce evidence that will either prove or disprove my conclusions.  It matters not to me, I only desire to seek truth relating to the origins of my ancestors and this seems timely because the 400th Anniversary of the Earl of Tyrone's death comes in July 2016.

My Wish List
  1. Find the 1748 Will of William Kelly of Kells to learn its contents.
  2. Discover William Kelly's father and learn if Thomas O Kelly of Carrickmacross is truely his grandfather, William Kelly of Carrickmacross is his great grandfather, and Thomas Kelly found at Carvally in the Survey 1591 is his great great grandfather as tradition claims.
  3. Discover how the McGonnell surname came into being and find proof about how that surname connects to Castle Ard-Goneill and the O Neills and the 2nd Earl of Tyrone Hugh O Neill.
If you are a male descendent of 2nd Earl Hugh O Neill with the O Neill surname, in other words his Y-DNA has been passed directly down to you without any maternal connections, I would loved to compare our Y-DNA results.  Pease contact me.

Irish Monarch Áed Slaine

Áed Slaine was the 141st Irish Monarch and he died in 605 AD and it was from him that the O'Kelley of Bregia claim descent.  If this is true, based upon a 30 year generation, he was likely my 40th great grandfather.

It was claimed by researchers that Áed Slaine was of the southern Ui Nail but I will point out that those who believed he was of the Ui Nail really had no proof.  WiKi says this about Áed Slaine genealogy:

"Áed and his kin were considered by later genealogies and histories to be members of the southern branch of the Uí Néill kindred, but this may be a later addition to include the descendants of Diarmait mac Cerbaill, supposed to be great-grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, among the ranks of the dominant Uí Néill. The other branches of the Uí Néill, the great Cenél Conaill and the Cenél nEógain, and the lesser Cenél Lóegairi, Cenél Maine, Cenél nÉndai, Cenél Coirpri and Cenél Fiachach, traced their ancestry rather to sons of Niall."

Slaine is located in Co Meath Ireland just a few miles west of Drogheda.  It would seem my ancestors lived not more than 30 miles from the same place for maybe 2000 years.  Slane is on the River Boyne and near the Co Louth border.  A Norman family named Fleming built a stone castle at Slane and it still remains today.

172nd Irish Monarch Congall O'Kelley 

Found in the book "Irish Pedigrees" Dr John O'Hart records at generation #101 or ten generations after the 141st Irish Monarch Aedh of Slaine lived appears 172nd Monarch of Ireland Congall O'Kelley.  Congall lived sometime in the early 10th century almost a full century before Ceallach #103 the ancestor of the O'Kelly of Connaught lived.  Based on a 30 year generation Congall O'Kelley may have been my 30th great grandfather.

Lots of people claim Royal descent but few can back it up with DNA and written history.  Just as my elders claimed, DNA and the Irish Annals make it likely my O'Kelley family are of an Irish Royal bloodline and it goes back more than 1500 years.  DNA backed up with the Annals of Ireland suggest that the "Great Earl Hugh "O'Kelley" O Neil" is likely also a cousin who could be as closely related as 14 generations.

Rick O'Kelley 111 Marker DNA Results


My DNA results will be valid for all O'Kelley descendents that share our common ancestor William abt 1685, -> James abt 1715, -> Charles 1760 -> Charles Dean 1795 -> James Stamps 1824.  If you descended from another line in this family, from one of the other brothers, your results will be very close to mine but maybe not exact there could be one and sometimes a two marker difference at 67 markers.     Below are my 111 marker results.  They are available for download here in CSV format. 

Halpogroup Confirmed R-FGC54816    YSearch ID 6SG69

PANEL 1 (1-12)
Marker DYS393 DYS390 DYS19** DYS391 DYS385 DYS426 DYS388 DYS439 DYS389I DYS392 DYS389II***
Value 13 24 14 11 11-14 12 12 12 13 13 30
PANEL 2 (13-25)
Marker DYS458 DYS459 DYS455 DYS454 DYS447 DYS437 DYS448 DYS449 DYS464
Value 18 9-9 11 11 25 15 19 26 15-15-15-17
PANEL 3 (26-37)
Marker DYS460 Y-GATA-H4 YCAII DYS456 DYS607 DYS576 DYS570 CDY DYS442 DYS438
Value 10 11 19-23 17 15 18 17 36-37 12 12
PANEL 4 (38-47)
Marker DYS531 DYS578 DYF395S1 DYS590 DYS537 DYS641 DYS472 DYF406S1 DYS511
Value 11 9 15-16 8 10 10 8 10 11
PANEL 4 (48-60)
Marker DYS425 DYS413 DYS557 DYS594 DYS436 DYS490 DYS534 DYS450 DYS444 DYS481 DYS520 DYS446
Value 12 23-23 17 10 12 12 14 8 12 22 20 13
PANEL 4 (61-67)
Marker DYS617 DYS568 DYS487 DYS572 DYS640 DYS492 DYS565
Value 12 11 13 11 11 12 12
PANEL 5 (68-75)
Marker DYS710 DYS485 DYS632 DYS495 DYS540 DYS714 DYS716 DYS717
Value 36 15 9 16 12 25 26 19
PANEL 5 (76-85)
Marker DYS505 DYS556 DYS549 DYS589 DYS522 DYS494 DYS533 DYS636 DYS575 DYS638
Value 12 10 12 12 11 9 12 12 10 11
PANEL 5 (86-93)
Marker DYS462 DYS452 DYS445 Y-GATA-A10 DYS463 DYS441 Y-GGAAT-1B07 DYS525
Value 11 30 12 13 24 13 10 10
PANEL 5 (94-102)
Marker DYS712 DYS593 DYS650 DYS532 DYS715 DYS504 DYS513 DYS561 DYS552
Value 21 15 19 13 23 17 12 15 24
PANEL 5 (103-111)
Marker DYS726 DYS635 DYS587 DYS643 DYS497 DYS510 DYS434 DYS461 DYS435
Value 12 23 18 10 14 18 9 13 11


If you are a traceable member of someone displayed on this website and you have DNA test results please contact me.  If you are a male with the name Kelly, Kelley, O'Kelly or O'Kelley and you desire to know if you are related to our family line, you can join the project and submit your sample to learn if there is a family relationship.  If you are a known male descendent of Rev James O'Kelly searching for your family roots, I would encourage you to join the Kelly DNA Project and complete a DNA test as that will prove or disprove Rev James O'Kelly relationship to our family. It is not free, there is a fee that ranges between $150 and $250 dollars depending on the number of markers you desire for DNA testing but I believe this to be a reasonable amount and could save a lot of time and money wasted going down an incorrect research paths.  Only one male descendent need submit a DNA sample so the costs could be shared by interested family members. If you would like to know more about DNA testing click on the DNA testing link.

The Kelley DNA Project was established by Raymond Kelly.  The purpose of the project is best learned by reading the pages relating to the project.  I appear within R Group 15B, you can select test results table view below to see others around me.  I have listed the links below:

Explains the projects goals of DNA testing
Explains how the grouping is determined
Table showing relations (full view) I appear in Group 15 Ui Maine Branch 2

At 37 markers I have 71 matches.  At 67 markers that drops to 41 but 11 of my 37 marker matches did not do the 67 marker upgrade.  Only 5 of my 67 marker matches have done a 111 marker upgrade and only 2 made it, 3 of of my 67 marker matches who upgraded to 111 markers do not share a male ancestor with me in 24 generations.  They are still my cousins, we just have to go back further than 750 years to find the grandfather that we share and that is getting close to the time when surnames came into use.  If you really want to find these shared ancestors, I am of the opinion that a 111 marker test is needed.

Members of our family known to have tested


Research based upon DNA Matches

Looking at my DNA results and matches it occurs to me that there are many things that the Irish did that muddles up the use of DNA for genealogy.  In the beginning of the use of surnames, these names identified a clan that was no all blood related so it is very possible that a single Sept of O'Kellys could have had several unrelated lines of DNA represent because when surnames began it had less to do with who the father was a more to do with how was the head of the Sept so while DNA can help it can also be misleading so given names and documents are always a better indicator of kinship than DNA might be.  There was a time when Irish clans forced the exchanged their eldest sons as hostages in an attempt to keep the peace between neighboring clans.  The thinking was the neighboring clan might not attack if they knew their leader's hostage son would be the first one killed, of course that never worked all that well in keeping the peace.  For many hostages their lives were miserable and short.  In some cases these sons found themselves in friendly hands and were sometimes married to the daughters of their hostage family and that is where the genealogy problems occur.  If an O'Kelley male was given as a hostage to the Connelly clan and that O'Kelley male took a Connelly woman as his wife and they had children, those children living in the Connelly clan would become known as the descendants of Connelly or Ó Connelly and after generations the O'Kelley line would be forgotten and when the Gaelic description of "descendant of" Connelly was translated into an English surname the male Conleys that carried the Y markers of their O'Kelley ancestor would bear a Conley surname causing considerable confusion to those doing DNA testing which provides one explanation why we all have so many matches to different surnames.  This occurred in reverse, males from other clans who were held as hostage by the Kellys would marry Kelly women and their offspring would be know as descendents of Ceallach or Ó Ceallaigh Their male Y markers will not be Kelly but their name and all their descendents will be and while I speak of the Irish most all Europeans followed many of these customs so if your ancestry is English, French, Spanish, German, and etc and you find a great many surname matches between 600 AD and 1000 AD, this could be one of the reasons.  It goes without saying that if the matches to many surnames occurs between 1000 AD and 2000 AD it is likely due to the creation of surnames and the unreliability of Y DNA at such distances.  There were no hard and fast legal rules, in the creation of surnames mostly they were making it up but it has been my experience that most researchers, even those most experienced often fail to seek out the customs to discover how it might impact research; most appear to assume our ancestors shared our modern values and lived by the same rules we live by today but that just wasn't true.   My recommendation, if you are going to research your ancestor, study the written material of that ancestor's time to learn the customs, wars, and natural events that may have influenced that ancestor, step into their shoes and imagine how they would have lived their lives.

Religion for the Irish, English, and Scots has likely resulted in a great many surname changes.  I believe it likely that when my O'Kelley Gentry ancestors in Tara Co Meath Ireland changed their faith from Irish Catholic of their fathers to English Protestant sometime before 1641 in their attempt to save their property and Gentry status that some of their non land owning poor Irish Catholic relations may have disowned them and changed their surnames and moved to other places to distance themselves from what they surely saw as a family shame.  Some of their own children may have done this.  Religion is often put above family.

I have found two O'Kellys who changed their surnames because it was a requirement to inherit an estate.  One changed his name to Ferrel to inherite his mother's brother's estate and another to Usher to inherit his maternal grandmother's property so the changing of a surname could be an indicator of wealth.

Spoils of War and infidelity must count for a great deal of the DNA matches to many surnames between 700 AD and 1200 AD.  We like to think of our ancestors as we think of our recent grandparents, kind, loving and Christian but that just wasn't true, I didn't have any grandparents who would have hanged a family including 5 year old children just because they were of a different religious belief but that is what some of our ancestors did or had done to them.  During must of the above time our ancestors chief occupation was war and it was often their neighbors they were warring upon.  They took what they wanted including raping the women.  This is a difficult concept for many to accept but one only has to look at WWII, Korea, and Vietnam to see that even in our modern times this practice occurred.  American GIs brought back many captured items that belonged to the people we were waging war upon and we also left behind a considerable number of children fathered by our America soldiers.   200 years from now one of their descendants and do a DNA test and be surprised that he comes from a paternal line far from where he thought his ancestors lived.  One only has to look at our conquest of the Native Americans to see that just a little over one hundred years ago we practiced this and while we think we are different today that we do not do these things today consider our recent war with Iraq, Vice President Cheney justifying our war with Iraq by telling us we would pay for the war from Iraqi oil revenues. he could have stepped back 1000 years and gave a similar speech to urge his follower to war upon their neighbors promising them war profits.  Leaders have been making these promises for years, appealing to the natural greed in humans to motivate the people to go to war and justify thievery and our ancestors were very good at it but war was not the only way the Y DNA of one family was spread to other surnames.  Infidelity is as old as the human race, when the husband is away the wife will play and the reverse is also true and many poor daughters were willing given over to the sons of the wealthy hoping good fortune might return to the family.  I recently read that if DNA testing was done in America today we would find that at least 30% of our children had different fathers than the father that appears on their birth certificate so infidelity must always be considered and the more wealthy and powerful a family was the more likely their Y DNA will appear in a greater number of surnames. 

Fostering was also widely practiced where sons and daughters were sent to live with a more prosperous family and sometime the foster children would take the surname of the foster family.  Most often the family doing the foster would receive a payment for that service, so in many ways it was very much like our modern practice of sending a child off to college.  Fostering was also used as a form of debt payment, children would be given over to the foster family to discharge a debt.  Fostering is one more possibility for the mix in DNA within surnames.  Children born to daughters normally were given the surnames of their fathers but once the children reached fostering age around eight years old, a fostering with more well to do related families could occur.  In this example the son of an O'Kelley might be fostered by his maternal family because of their wealth and status and that son could take on the surname of his fostering family providing us with an explanation as to how an O'Kelley Y DNA could become a Conley or Farrell.

There are other customs as explained in "The Short History of Ireland" by Dr Johnathan Bardon that complicates genealogy.  The Irish followed the teachings of the Old Testament by having a primary wife and secondary wives and concubines.  An Irish husband could send his wife and her children back to her family and the children would often then take the name of their maternal grandfather.  This book also tells about "fostering" a practice where the Irish may send their children to live with a family for any number of reasons and those children would sometimes become the children of that family taking the name of the family.  Another custom that may seem shocking is there are several accounts in this book about the Irish women's dress.  They would wear short smocks and nothing else.  The Spaniards wrote in their letters home about the beauty of the Irish women and how immodest they were about their private parts being exposed.  I am certain this too accounts for a great number of genealogy surprises. 

Nancy Stenson in her book titled "Basic Irish"  provides additional explanations why surnames cannot be relied upon.  The Irish would sometimes take the maternal name if the maternal relations was powerful , wealthy, or famous and when there were two of the same name in a village, they would use a local name that identifies the person with their fathers or mothers and not their family.  For example if Farrell Ua Ceallaigh and Patrick Ua Ceallaigh each had a son name Shaun Ua Ceallaigh, in the village they would be known as Shaun MacFarrell and Shaun MacPatrick and in some cases these names stuck and were passed down and as grandsons they would appear as O'Farrell and O'Patrick.

For the Irish their slaughterby the greedy English accounts for a great number of surname mixing.  Much of the time the English would kill every man, women, and every child but in some cases the very young children would escape such and they would take on the identify of the family that they became a part of.  A great number of orphans were created from the countless wars and the starvations forced upon the Irish, sometimes natural but often imposed upon them by the English who wanted to reduce the Irish in number so they could possess their lands.

It does not escape my notice that some DNA testing services tell people that if the surname of a match is different from yours then it is less likely that one is related and I find that totally unacceptable.  We use DNA to prove relationships in our courts.  Sometimes DNA is the sole evidence that sets a convicted person free or condemns an accused person sometimes to death so either this technology is exact or it is not and if it is not then why do we give it so much elevation in our courts?  I recommend following the DNA and permitting it to lead you where ever it takes you because it is far more reliable than a document, record or a surname.

But hidden from our history is a darker and more troubling reason why DNA results can connect one to so many surnames and that is how our America was really established.  Our history books tell us that most came to America as indentured servants but that was not always true.  English King James of the King James Bible started an enterprise of transporting the undesirables of England, Scotland, and Ireland to the English Colonies where they  put on the auction block and sold as lifetime slaves.  Many were worked to death and if they had children those children were lifetime slaves. White slaves predate black slaves and white slaves were treated often worse than black slaves because they were so cheap.  To obtain a black slave, they had to be bought in Africa from those who captured slaves and then transported over a long distance where many died.  White slaves were simply taken from the community and put on ships and sent to America and Barbados.  It has been estimated that during a 150 year period beginning in King James time more than 100,000 Irish children were taken to become life time slaves in the colonies and just as black slaves sometimes took the names of their masters, it can be certain that this is the explanation as to how so many Kelley male children have surnames other than Kelley, it is likely the Anglican English protestants killed their parents and transported their children to America to be sold for profit on the slave auction blocks.  Irish women were highly prized because of their beauty and were used as sexual consorts or in brothels.  We like to think that Christianity makes us different from the rest of the world but the real truth is we just hid our dirty laundry better than most.