Ceallach Pollnagollum 911 of Ireland
Co Fermanagh Ireland -> Bregia-> Virginia -> Georgia
O'Kelley in America
Kearns - Boylan -
Ua Ceallaigh - Ó Ceallaigh McGonnell - McConnell
O'Kelley - Kelly Ó Neill

Kelley DNA Project
The O'Kelley Name

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." - Albert Einstein

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DNA -> Bregia Ireland!

Chief InvestigatorWe are one of the oldest and few families in the world to still use the very Irish surname of O'Kelley which appeared as Ui Ceallaigh in Irish Gaelic meaning "grandson of Cellach" which is pronounced as "Kelley".  The majority of my  Y-DNA matches and family tradition stories suggest we came from Bregia in  Co Meath and we took our name from  Cellach, King of Ireland and we are the  O'Kelley of Bregia.

I have a rare 1 in 123 Y-DNA  match to the remains of Pollnagollum 911 R-FGC11134 found in the Pollnagollum Cave in modern day Co Fermanagh Northern Ireland and he puts my Y-DNA in Ireland about 4200 years ago.  Pollnagollum 911 was found with the remains of two female, Pollnagollum 86 U4a3a may have been the wife of  Pollnagollum 911 making her the grandmother of all my O'Kelley kin.  Pollnagollum 90 T2b2b who lived about 4100 years ago, may have been a great granddaughter and Pollnagollum 911 isn't my only ancient Irish ancestor, in Co Sligo in a cist Cairn was found the remains of Treanmacmurtagh 116 who lived about 4000 years ago. 

My 1st and 2nd great grandparents were buried less than a mile from our childhood home and in the summer dad would load the mower in the back of his 51 Ford Pickup and we would go with him to the cemetery to mow our grandparents graves.  Sometimes our O'Kelley grandparents would stop by and they told us more than once that we were the "old Irish" and descended from the High Kings of Ireland and that was the story handed down in my family for generations.

That all changed when Aletha Jane Macon an 87 year old retired school teacher from Georgia published her book in 1969 titled "Four O’Kelley Sons and Some of their Descendants – Allied Families".   Macon opens her book with a suggestion  that all O'Kelleys and O'Kelly were of the O'Kelly of Hy-Many and she puts the Coat of Arms of the Hy-Many in her book with O'Kelley under it causing readers to conclude it belonged to our O'Kelley family.  If it is written in a book especially by an educator it must be true, right? 

So where did Macon get this notion that we might be Hy-Many?   My Investigation concludes that it came from Effie Cate O'Kelley a story handed down to her from her father Thomas Dean O'Kelley born on 4 September 1856, after graduating college in 1883, he traveled to Europe with his college professor and Ireland was one of the places they visited. He came back with the Hy-Many Coat of Arms and a story that all O'Kelleys descend from the Hy-Many which at that time they might have believed that true after all some of the Hy-Many O'Kellys did come to America in the 1600s and our family had been out of Ireland for so long that the Irish likely didn't remember us, the O'Kelley of Bregia, descendents of the 141st Monarch of Ireland Aed Slaine. Thomas Dean O'Kelley's son, Fredrick Henry O'Kelley, was an artist, he painted copies of the Hy-Many Coat of Arms, and gave them as gifts over the years and they have been handed down to his living descendents today and one of these exact copies right down to the maker's mark was used by Alethea Jane Macon inside the cover of her 1969 book. 

 Even the Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia in the book case in my parents home made the claim that all O'Kellys came from Teague O'Kelly who died at the Battle of Contarf so the belief that we were Hy-Many or Ui Mhaine became deeply engrained in my family and even some of the Irish Hy-Many believed it true also but the story that my grandparents told me while we were standing at the graves of my 1st and 2nd grandparents before Macon's book didn't fit with the belief that we were of Hy-Many as they lived in the west of Ireland when Meath was in the east and the Hy-Many didn't descend from the High Kings of Ireland so in 2010 I tested my Y-DNA and to make sure I also tested my uncle John and our Y-DNA test results compared to the test results of a well documented descendent of Hy-Many proved beyond all doubt that we did not come from the Hy-Many O'Kellys and since 2010 as more and more people tested their Y-DNA, my Y-DNA matches indicated we likely did come from Co Meath just as my grandparents said and then in 2023 I discovered matches to 4000 year old remains found in Ireland  of Pollnagollum 911 and Treanmacmurtagh 116 proving that that we really are of "The Old Irish" as my grandparents claimed.

 We are kin to the O'Kelly of Hy-many but we must go back almost 4500 years which is 3500 years before surnames came into use in Ireland to find the grandfather we share with the O'Kelly of Ui Mhaine. Our shared Y-DNA match to the remains of Thornholme 18606 R-DF-13 and the O'Kelly of Hy-Many or Ui Mhaine Y DNA rare match to remains of Thornholme 22060 R-BY154824 makes it very likely that our shared grandfather lived in or near Thornholme Yorkshire England about 4300 to 4500 years ago but the Globetrekker Maping tool suggest that grandfather likely lived in Cumbria England. 

 My rare 1 in 123 match to the remains of Pollnagollum 911 R-FGC11134 in Co Fermanagh and Treanmacmurtagh 116 R-FGC11134 found in a cist burial inside a cairn in Co Sligo solidly cement my Y-DNA in Ireland about 4000 years ago.  Pollnagollum Cave 911 is the oldest Irish Ancestor for the FamilyTreeDNA Kelley  R1B  Group15B and those in my 111 Marker matches.   For more on my DNA research click on this link.

Our family tradition story and records prove that our ancestor arrived in America before 1750 but during our US Civil War many courthouses and churches in Virginia were burned destroying the records that make it possible for us to know when our ancestors arrived and who they might be but because "Thomas O'Kelley seems to be a consistence belief I think it likely the first of our family to leave Ireland and come to Virginia was Thomas and Honor who arrived with their children in 1690 AD and Thomas was likely using "O Kelley" as his surname and when we appear as Kelly in some early records it is due to the unfamiliarity of Irish names by the person recording our name and in some cases it might be due to the English efforts that began in the 16th century to intentional suppress Irish surnames.   Thomas and Honor settled on the John Pleasant Plantation near the Huguenot settlement at Manikin VA and several of our early ancestors while in Virginia married Huguenot women and men causing me to conclude that Thomas and Honor were my Irish ancestors.   

For two and one half centuries in America generations of my family have passed down our name, our story, and records and much survives today.   Few have such a rich family history that stretch back almost 5000 years, that stretches back before the time that some claim that Noah and his sons survived a worldwide flood.  Few families have a signature of their 3rd great grandfather born in 1795 in our National Archives proving the spelling of our O'Kelley surname.

 I am not faulting Aletha Jane Macon, at 87 years of age she used the resources she had available to her to come to a conclusion just as I have done.  I believe she did it hoping to inspire someone like me to take an interest.   Macon wasn't alone in causing confusion in our family.  It is from  a family pedigree create in 1904 and written in the hand of Dr Thomas K O'Kelley and passed down to  his great great granddaughter Judith Knowles Ries my 6th cousin that comes the names James O'Kelley and Anna Dean and their first born son the famous Rev James O'Kelly,  Charles, Thomas, Elizabeth, Polly Ann, Benjamin, Francis, and George.  This great family treasure predates the Alethea Jane Macon Pedigree by more than 60 years but it doesn't stand alone as Mary Evelyn O'Kelley my 4th cousin 1x removed wrote her 1960 college paper about our ancestors and she names our ancestor as James O'Kelley and his six sons that most migrated to Georgia but August 11, 2022 the Y-DNA results of James Thomas O'Kelley a traceable descendent of Benjamin O'Kelley the ancestor of Dr Thomas K O'Kelley changed everything calling into question the validity of his family pedigree create in 1904 as the DNA results of two descendents of Thomas, two descendent of Charles and now one descendent of Benjamin proves that these men were not brothers but cousins of different degrees.  Only Charles and Francis appear to be brothers, they married Crowder sisters, lived on the same land near Comer GA and the the 1871 Bible that belongs to the Thomas Dean O'Kelley who went to Ireland records them as brothers but it will take Y-DNA test of a traceable descendent of Francis to prove it is true.   While Thomas and Charles are likely first or second cousins, Benjamin is likely their 3rd or 4th cousins, one would have to go back to Thomas and Honora both born in 1658 to find the O'Kelley grandparents that Thomas and Charles, share with Benjamin.  Any pedigree that claims they were brothers is not valid but is possible that a James O'Kelley and Anna Dean were the parents of Benjamin and until a descendent of Rev James O'Kelley completes a Y-DNA test it is possible that Benjamin was Rev James O'Kelley's much younger brother.     

My fourteen year investigation based in my experience as an criminal investigator, DNA, records, and tradition stories suggest a strong possibility that everyone who is blood related to me descends from Aed of Slaine a Monarch of Ireland in the 6th Century and there is some DNA evidence to support my conclusion as I share a grandfather with Claristown 14 who lived near the time Aed lived and Claristown 14's remains were found 5 miles from Slaine Co Meath Ireland in a Ring Ditch Burial.  In Ireland bodies buried in a circle with an important person buried in the middle were the fashion of burial for some Irish Kings.  

My grandparents have been deceased for more than two decades and just a few years ago I discovered they were not alone in the telling of our family story as from Ruth Barton Pullium my 6th cousin 2x removed comes her family tradition story handed down to her father from her grandmother Salina O'Kelley who was the granddaughter of Thomas O'Kelley  a first cousin to my 4th great grandfather Charles O'Kelley and her story says that our ancestors were "prominent" and came from Co Meath.  When living Ruth orally told the story to some that our ancestor was of the Four Tribes of Tara said to be "prominent", a very similar story my grandparents told and perhaps before the Battle of Clontarf that might have been true but it wasn't true when our ancestors left Ireland for Virginia.  I tracked down that Old Map of Ireland "Erin's First Family" published in the 1800s that Macon references in her book, and it is said to represent land holdings from 1000 CE to 1600 CE and it shows the O'Kelly Prince of Bregia near Tara that supports Ruth's claim and supported by my grandparents and there is nothing in my Y-DNA results, research, or Dr John O'Donovan's comment that excludes this possibility.   Claristown 14 remains were found within the northeast portion of Bregia as it appears on this map and Slaine is only a few miles northwest of Bregia as it appears on this map and the The Annals of  Clonmacnoisc refer to the Bregia or Brey as the lands of Aed of Slaine and the O'Kellyes right up to the coming of King Henry II and it was a much bigger place in that time, from Dublin to Louth and included Tara so I can't disprove Ruth's story handed down in her family and my DNA match to the Claristown 14 remains makes it possible that over the thousands of years our family was in Ireland we moved from Co Fermanagh into Brey or Bregia, became Kings of Ireland and stayed in Bregia or migrated back to Co Fermanagh during the time of Queen Elizabeth or and my family could have remained in Bregia.   I have found evidence that supports both possibilities.

I doubt this investigation is over.  A new Y-DNA match could turn it all on it's head, taking us in a different direction.  The DNA testing of discovered human remains will continue long after I am gone. 

Rick O'Kelley, Webmaster, rick@arkansasusa.net


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Rick O'Kelley
Chief Investigator   This website would not be possible without the aid of many researchers who came before me, much of the information found on this web site was provided to me by my Aunt Kathleen O’Kelley and originates from her independent research.  Some has it's source in the 1966 book by J Fred O'Kelly, titled "Some Descendants and Ancestral Kin of James Stamps O'Kelley and Lucy Woodruff England"; the 1969 book by Alethea Jane Macon, Four O’Kelley Sons and Some of their Descendants – Allied Families; Harold O'Kelley's 1985 book "Four Families Through Georgia", "The Life of Rev James O'Kelly" by W E MacClenny, some came from Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, on line books, US Census records, Newspapers, or other independent sources.   James O’Kelley and Anna Dean source documentation originates from five pages created by Dr. Thomas Katlet O’Kelley, and the contents of some of those pages has been kindly shared by his great-great granddaughter, Judith (Knowles) Ries.  Judith is a published author of the book Ed O’Kelley: The Man Who Murdered Jesse James’ Murderer and A Patchwork of Memories, a Knowles/O’Kelley genealogy.  If you use any of Dr. O’Kelley’s data, please credit Judith Ries.  You may use any photograph or scan found on this website for non commercial purposes. 
Retired Chief Investigator
Washington Co Sheriff's Dept
Fayetteville, AR


This website has ran continuously on the Internet since 1 May 1997.  It is perhaps the oldest and most conclusive O'Kelley source on the net.
Webmaster:  Rick O'Kelley

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