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Find my Kellys
HAS ANYONE HERE SEEN KELLY?
By Dr Joe Kelly of Oranmore, Co Galway.
The name O'Kelly, Kelly, Kelley, Kellie and the Gaelic form Ó Ceallaigh, is the second commonest surname in Ireland. There are approximately half a million people worldwide who bear this name. Up until the 10th century surnames were not used in Ireland. Instead, they were called their own name followed by their father's name followed by their grandfather's name. For example, Brian Mac Thomas Mac Hugh. In the 10th century because of increase in population and the confusion arising in people's names, it was decided to use surnames or family names. This took two forms either Ua, later changed to ‘Ó’,which meant the grandson of, or Mac, which meant the son of. Thus the name Ó Ceallaigh which meant the grandson of Ceallagh arose. In some areas the form MacKelly, meaning the son of Ceallagh,was the norm.
In other areas, notably in Cornwall, Isle of Man and probably in Antrim, the name Kelly arose from Celli, meaning man of the woods.
The name O'Kelly did not spring from a single source, but arose independently in several areas in Ireland, also in Scotland and the Isle of Man and in England.