My Irish Ancestor
his  two wives, and his
 first American born sons

James O'Kelley
and
Anna and Elizabeth Dean
 

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 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 and Elizabeth 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 and Elizabeth 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.

After more than 4 years of intensive investigation and the spending of more than a thousand dollars I have come to conclude that our ancestor was the James O'Kelley of the Dr Thomas K O'Kelley Pedigree and he was likely born about 1715 near Tara in Co Meath as Ruth Barton Pullium stated and his great, great grandfather Thomas O'Kelley was born about 1540 and in the last quarter of the 1500s under the English Tudor Monarchs Tomas Ó Ceallaigh a Gentleman was forced to take the oath of supremacy, 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 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 exactly as Dr Thomas K O'Kelley pedigree suggests, but James O'Kelley first married Nancy Dean who was born about 1718 and she was remembered in Dr Thomas K O'Kelley's Pedigree by her nickname "Anna" and they had children but I believe Anna died likely around 1758 and our ancestor married Anna's younger sister Elizabeth Dean and James and Elizabeth had children then our ancestor went to war and he is the James Kelley 10th Virginia 7 Company from Caroline Co Virginia who died at Brandywine September 11 1777 at the age of about 62 and he is buried in a mass grave at the Birmingham-Lafayette Cemetery in West Chester PA. 

I am 62 and I wonder if maybe James O'Kelley, my 5th great grandfather, weary of a younger wife and a house full of small children sought to once again live the adventure of a young man's life by going to war.  I would do it at this very moment and I am not alone, I know many veterans who would take up arms without question if our country was invaded and it seems certain that James O'Kelley was a veteran of the French and Indian wars.  As a 62 year old veteran, dying in battle would be far more desirable than dying of old age and disease so as I write this I wonder what might have been James O'Kelley's thoughts and motivation as I don't find that he was drafted. Maybe he went to war hoping to spare a son or maybe to set the example for his sons.  Maybe he went to war because he thought that if he was killed in a battle that he would be forever remembered by his descendants and if that was true it is sad that he was so soon forgotten.  So far removed in time, I doubt there will be records beyond what I have making it possible to obtain DAR or SAR recognition.  Author and descendent Judith Ries in her 1976 book "A Patchwork of Memories, a Knowles/O'Kelley Genealogy" says he was a minister as does author Ronald Lansing on page 207 of his 2005 book titled Nimrod, Courts , Claims, and Killing on the Oregon Frontier and if he was a Methodist Episcopal Minister he may have enlisted and was at the battlefield to not just fight but to minister to the soldiers and lost his life in the process.  We will likely never know why he was on that battlefield that day or if he died from war wounds or from some illness but I feel certain James Kelley from Caroline Co VA who died that day was James O'Kelley my 5th Great Grandfather.

I believe that Elizabeth Dean's oldest step son was Rev James O'Kelly who was too fully engaged in his ministry to provide for Elizabeth Dean who would have been about 42 at the time but with several small children so Thomas also being a godly man cared for his widowed stepmother until her oldest son Charles O'Kelley became established and married and able to care for her and this explains why Thomas was 34 when he married, it explains why some believed he may have been previously married, and why some believed that Elizabeth Dean's husband was named Thomas O'Kelley, she likely lived with Thomas after her husbands death and the facts have become confused or for religious reasons the facts may have been intentionally altered or withheld by descendents in later decades.  It was so common in the time of James, Anna, and Elizabeth for spouses to marry the siblings of their dead spouses that in 1835 England passed a law against it and I have found such practice forbidden in Mathew Carey printed King James bibles in the early 1800s.  Once our ancestors had moved from Virginia to Georgia and after Elizabeth Dean died sometime after 1827 in Oglethorpe Co GA I suspect that descendents began to manufacture a story to conceal what they thought was their ancestors sin and that is how the two competing family Pedigrees of James and Anna and Thomas and Elizabeth were created.  In Alethea Jane Macon and Harold Ernest O'Kelley books the religious overtones appear often causing me to believe they weren't at liberty to present what the data suggests, to do so would have caused too great of contention within the O'Kelley family.  Today I think the younger generations are much more understanding than those of 50 years ago when J Fred O'Kelly and Alethea Jane Macon were compiling their books and I am a salty, beat up old homicide investigator, I am use to family contention so I can go where no one was willing to go before.  For me Genealogy Research is more than just a family tree in a bible, I seek to understand the life of my ancestors, to visit with them and know what caused them to make their choices to better get to know who they were and for me the grouping of the families after leaving Virginia indicate there are two families joined into one by two marriages as Rev James O'Kelley, Thomas O'Kelley, and Benjamin O'Kelley can all be found in North Carolina but Charles, Francis, and John can only be found in Mecklenburg Co Virginia where they marry Crowder sisters and then Charles and Francis moved next door to each other south of Comer Georgia in Oglethorpe Co, we don't know what became of John and his wife Francis Crowder but the clustering of these O'Kelleys fit with them having different mothers. Because Elizabeth O'Kelley of Oglethorpe Co Ga is given as Revolutionary War Widow in a 1827 Land Lottery I believe this can only be Elizabeth Dean and that she is buried in an unmarked grave in the O'Kelley Whitehead Cemetery south of Comer with her sons Charles and Francis O'Kelley.  If this is Elizabeth Dean, she is too young to be the mother of Rev James O'Kelley and Thomas O'Kelley and I feel certain that Charles O'Kelley is her first born and he wasn't born in 1756 but 1760 as I am reminded that George Welborn O'Kelley's bible page that records his marriage claims that his grandfather Charles O'Kelley was born about 1760 and and not 1756 and Francis bible page makes him born 1761 so they would have been teenagers when James O'Kelley died at Brandywine.   I can find no record of military service for Francis and the sole documentation accepted by the DAR is he won an 1805 land lottery in Georgia but orphans of war veterans were also allowed a lottery draw.  Alethea Jane Macon's own book seems to support that Charles was younger than Benjamin as on page 5 she gives the order of the sons as Thomas, George, William, Benjamin, Charles, and Francis but then gives Charles as born in 1756 reversing Charles and Benjamin so I think Macon believed that Charles was born in 1760 and someone caused her to accept 1756 before her book went to publishing.  Macon changed the birth year of Charles but not the order, she left Benjamin in her book as the fourth son and Charles as the fifth. 

What I propose is supported by the naming of the granddaughters as Thomas named his first born daughter Ann and Charles named his first born daughter Elizabeth Dean O'Kelley.  What I propose is also supported by Peter Jefferson Kernolde's claim in his book titled "Lives of Christian ministers: over two hundred memoirs" where he states that Rev John P O'KellyRev James O'Kelly, and Rev "Franky" Francis Dean O'Kelley all descendants of Thomas O'Kelley and Elizabeth Wyers were descendents of Rev James O'Kelly.  This would be true if our ancestor was Rev James O'Kelley the father of Rev James O'Kelly founder of the Christian Church and Thomas O'KelleyCharles son George Washington O'Kelley was an early Baptist minister in Georgia and my family has a tradition that ministers run in our family.  
 
Rick O'Kelley


Pedigree as suggested by documents and my research
 
Rev James O'Kelley and Anna and Elizabeth Dean

Rev James O'Kelley was likely born around 1715 in Co Meath Ireland, a descendant of 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 Meatho 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.  I think it likely that he was the James Kelley from Caroline Co Virginia who enlisted in the 10th Virginia Regiment 7th Company Jan 15 1777 and died in battle at Brandywine Sept 11 1977 and is buried in a common grave at the Birmingham-Lafayette Cemetery.   I also think he always went by O'Kelley and was just recorded as Kelley by those unfamiliar with how to record his surname.

James first married Anna Dean (Nancy) about 1737 and she was likely born in Co Meath Ireland and the marriage took place there.  I believe Anna must have died after Benjamin was born perhaps about 1758 but she may have died giving birth to Benjamin, there is no method to know.  I believe James O'Kelley secondly married Elizabeth Dean who was either Anna's much younger sister or she could have even been a younger first cousin who I suspect was living in the home with James and Anna at the time of Anna's death.  Anna is likely buried some where in Caroline Co Virginia.  James having a first and second family with women named Dean is why I believe we have the two competing family pedigrees and so many years between first and last born children.  I suspect the hiding of this knowledge was an intentional deception by religious descendents.  Marrying a deceased spouse's sibling was so common place in their time that England passed "The Marriage Act of 1835 which prohibited such a marriage after 1835 but they left the existing marriages valid.  England fought over this in their legislature for another 65 years until it was repealed.  I suspect that after several generations passed and our ancestors had moved to Georgia that the conservative religious members of our family purposely put in place roadblocks to hide what they believed was the "sin" of our ancestor and that is why he was forgotten and these two pedigrees created.  People did and still do these kinds of deceptions.  

Rev James O'Kelly says almost nothing about his parents likely for the same reason.  He is well engaged in his ministry when his father died at Brandywine.  It might be his father's marriage to Elizabeth Dean was never popular with him and now that both his father and mother were deceased, this may have influenced Rev James O'Kelly explaining why he never adopted the double "e" spelling of his last name.  Thomas also being a godly man likely took care of his widowed step mother Elizabeth and her home full of minor children after his father's death and that gave rise to the belief that Thomas had a previous wife and that Elizabeth Dean husband was Thomas O'Kelley and not James O'Kelley.  This could explain why Thomas was 34 when he married Elizabeth Wyers and began his own family, he was occupied providing for his step mother and his step siblings until her own son Charles came of age, married and became established and could provide for her.  It may have actually been required by law that a member of the family do this.  In time and generations and maybe because ancestors were unwilling to speak about it I believe this became confused into two competing family pedigrees of James and Anna and Thomas and Elizabeth but the naming of the grandchildren and the finding of a 1827 Georgia Land Lottery for a Revolutionary War widow named Elizabeth O'Kelley living in Oglethorpe County causes me to believe the below pedigree is true.  If Elizabeth Dean was still alive in 1827 then she likely was too young to be the mother of Rev James and Thomas O'Kelley so the only answer must be Elizabeth Dean was the second wife of James O'Kelley and perhaps this information was so religiously distasteful that some descendents suppressed it and some intentionally modified the story.  Even Harold Ernst O'Kelley to lends support to my conclusion where on page 202 of his book he states that Macon had in her notes that Elizabeth Dean died after 1818 so clearly she would not have remained behind in Virginia and would have traveled to Georgia so it seems very likely she is the one who won the 1827 lottery. 

John Daniel McCurry a descendent of Rev James O'Kelly created a Pedigree in 1936 and his Pedigree records Thomas D, William D, 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 1740 maybe in Ireland as there were Deanes living in Co Meath, some very near Kells at the time James O'Kelley lived there.  It seems a lot more probably that James would marry and Irish born woman than arriving in America and marrying an English descended American born woman.

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

+1 i.   Rev James O'Kelly  (Family Pedigree of Rev James O'Kelly) founder of the Christian Church
+2 ii.   Thomas Dean O'Kelley Confirmed by DNA test of Samuel Joseph O'Kelley and Ronnie O'Kelley
+3 iii.   George O'Kelley abt 1752
+4 iv.   William D O'Kelley 4
+5 v.   Benjamin O'Kelley2,3,4   proven by Dr Thomas K O'Kelley Pedigree

James O'Kelley and Elizabeth Dean were likely married about 1758 or 1759 in Virginia. Elizabeth was likely a younger sister or cousin of Anna Dean.

Elizabeth Dean 2,3 was likely born about 1735 in Surry Co Virginia to the Thomas Dean found in the land records in both Prince George and Surry Co VA but it is possible that she and her older sister Anna were born in Co Meath Ireland as it was the custom of native born Irish in America to take an Irish born wife mostly because fathers of American born women would not allow them to marry Irish born unless they were wealthy Gentry which isn't beyond possibility.  Our family clearly seem to have means and influence early but if James Kelley did die at Brandywine, he wasn't an officer and that would indicate he might not have held a high station at that time. 

James O'Kelley and Elizabeth Dean had the following children:

+6 vi. Charles Dean** O'Kelley2,3,4  My Ancestor confirmed by DNA Test of Rick O'Kelley
+7 vii.   Francis O'Kelley.1,2,3,4 Married Delilah Crowder, her ancestor was one of the Founding families of America
+8 vii.   John O'Kelley proven by Rev James O'Kelly Pedigree and Mecklenburg Marriage record with Charles Kelley as second
+9 ix. Elizabeth O'Kelley - proven by 1860 Census
+10 x.   Nancy O'Kelley - I believe Nancy named her son James O'Kelley Daniel Tucker after her father and her father-in-law proven by 1860 Census  Daniel Tucker's ancestor was one of the Founding families of America
       
       

Simeon Stroud appears in the 1810 Mississippi US Census and his descendents are an exact 37/37 DNA Marker match with Samuel Joseph O'Kelley a descendent of Columbus Pennington O'Kelley indicating that Simeon Stroud is likely the grandson of James O'Kelley and Nancy Dean.  How this relationship occurred isn't know but it might be that Simeon was orphaned and adopted by a family named Stroud.

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

My Irish Ancestors

What comes below is provided mainly to make future researchers aware that I went down these "rabbit holes" so when they take the trip they will know that I did look at this in great detail and how what I found influenced my final conclusions.  Previous researchers who published books left their readers with a lot of unanswered questions, my goal is to provide the details that caused me to come to my conclusions very much like I was presenting my case to a jury deciding the truth or innocents of a homicide suspect.  I will allow you to judge the facts and come to your own conclusions.

It is accepted that my Kelly ancestor came from Ireland as a protestant but few descendants of the Irish understand just how radical and rare it was for a native Irishman to come from Ireland about or before 1750 and be anything other than poor and Catholic.  My ancestors were Irish Catholic for more than a thousand years and before that time my ancestors were Druids but the same was true for all people of European descent but if my ancestor arrived in America before 1748 as protestant, then it is likely that he descended from a minor gentry or business protestant Irish family of Kellys and most of these were in the east of Ireland or along the coasts.  My closest DNA match cousins comes from Co Clare, Co Meath, Donagh Parish Co Monaghan Ireland, and Co Galway Ireland and the stories of these family make it likely that our ancestor was born somewhere near Tara Co Meath Ireland and if he was protestant that he and maybe his parents may have been early Quaker converts as a large Quaker settlement was at Oldcastle near Kells in Co Meath.  At some point the the Wesley influence came into our family and can be seen in the occupation and naming of children in my American family.

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 case of the three O'Kelleys: James, Thomas, and William.


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.


Thomas O'Kelley and Elizabeth Dean are in my opinion based solely on family myth that some have created using J Fred O'Kelly and Alethea Jane Macon publications and they are perhaps the most well known and accepted tradition but because they are readily accepted by most descendants that doesn't make them correct and it isn't Macon's fault that her book has become unquestioned fact for so many descendants.  I now feel certain that the story naming Thomas as our grandfather who become Protestant became corrupted over the generations and changed into Thomas being the one who left Ireland and came to America.  Alethea Jane Macon should receive no blame for causing descendants to believe Thomas O'Kelley is our ancestor, she didn't have access to my resources, training, or experience, and as she explains the lack of records and documentation for Thomas O'Kelley due to the wars is true, a great many records in Virginia were destroyed by fire and war but I am unaware of any birth, marriage, death records, early bible or church records, or census records to support the Thomas and Elizabeth tradition.   You may find the Yates US International Marriage Record for Thomas and Elizabeth dated 1748 but that record can not be backed up by any marriage authority or any bible records or church records from that time period.  Yates is just saying it is so and saying it is so isn't proof and while Alethea Jane Macon in her 1969 book says "The best available evidence, however, leads to the belief that his name was Thomas"; she fails to tell us what that "best available evidence" might be and I believe that Macon founded her "Best Evidence" in a story handed down for generations that our first protestant ancestor was "Thomas O'Kelley" and her reliance on a 1938 book by John Gwathmey, "Historic Register of Virginians in the Revolution that mistakenly gives William D O'Kelley as Thomas D O'Kelley.  I believe Macon just assumed that Thomas D O'Kelley and our first protestant ancestor being named "Thomas was a smoking gun but Harold Earnst O'Kelley tracked down John Gwathmey's source and discovered that Thomas D O'Kelley was an error, that he was also William D O'Kelley who had been duplicated under both name.  In recent years Gwathmey being the source that Charles and Benjamin O'Kelley served in the 8th Virginia have been dismissed by the DAR  and I agree with the DAR, Benjamin makes no mention of service in the 8th with his brother Charles in his pension application.  I think Macon used the best evidence available but it turned out to be wrong but Macon should not be faulted, she was 87 when she published her book, I would be lucky to live to 87 let alone remember all that Alethea Jane Macon correctly remembers in her book so she must not be faulted.  No one should take this as a condemnation of Ms Macon, just the opposite, she took the information available to her and came to a conclusion and we are lucky she cared enough to spend some of her last years of her life compiling and publishing her book.  Imagine the void in our family knowledge if she hadn't done it.


William Kelley I suspect have been over looked or dismissed by past researchers because they did not fit with family lore but in my opinion as a retired homicide investigator there exists sound evidence in the form of three government document that cannot be so easily pushed aside.  I am trained to look only at the evidence so while my method is sound, I must admit that two great flaws exists in embracing these documents as evidence that William Kelley might be the name of our ancestor rests solely because he lives in the place where our ancestors lived and he is a Kelly.  What I think it proves is more Kellys lived in Mecklenburg than just those who would change their surname from Kelly or Kelley to O'Kelley.  There is a family tree for a William Kelley who married Elizabeth Ramey and his father was said to have also born in Mecklenburg bout 1779 the same year as the eldest son of Charles and Mary O'Kelley, the William Kelley who would be the first born grandson of our ancestors so it is very possible that the William Kelly who appears in all these records was of the William Kelley and Elizabeth Ramey family who moved to Washington Co Arkansas.  These Kelleys didn't change their surname to O'Kelley, they don't seem to have ever used O'Kelley so they don't appear to be related and are likely descents of Giles Kelly who came from Waterford in 1685.  The second flaw in accepting these William Kelley records is I have only Alethea Jane Macon's claim that Charles and Mary named the first born American grandchild William.  Where did she obtain this knowledge as I have been unable to prove that grandchild ever existed.  Macon claims that he remained behind in Virginia but no record of him seems to exist as an O'Kelley and all our family are using the O'Kelley suname when they move from Virginia so why wouldn't he also use the name of his family?  The evidence of the 1752 Lunenburg  Co Tithe Census,1769 Lunenburg Co Virginia Tithe Census and 1782 Mecklenburg Co Va Head of Household census, the naming customs of the native Irish and English make it likely a William Kelley existed in Mecklenburg but I think it is more likely he is the ancestor of the William Kelley and Elizabeth Ramey descendents and not related to our family. 

Also appearing on the 1752 Lunenburg  Co Tithe Census is a William Waire and a William Harwell and Harwell is also a name that appears decades earlier in Prince George Co.  William Waire might be the father of Elizabeth Wyers who married Thomas O'Kelley in Granville NC and Thomas and Elizabeth Wyers  son, Rev James married a Franky (Frances) Harwell and Charles's daughter Betsy Dean married a Mark Harwell, William Harwell may have been their grandfather.

How do we know that our family came from Mecklenburg Co Virginia before their migrated to Georgia?  The early bible records for George Wellborn O'Kelley the son of George Washington O'Kelley gives Mecklenburg VA as his father's birth place and that George Washington was the son of Charles born about 1760 and Mecklenburg is where we find the marriage record for Francis Kelley and Delilah Crowder and where we find Charles Kelley's name on a 1779 Mecklenburg Militia roster and Charles Kelley's land and tax records up to the year 1805 but it may be that our family came to Mecklenburg from Granville North Caroline as William Kelley appears in the NC census in 1762 and a James Kelley and Francis Kelley appears in the 1769 NC census also in the same county so where our family was before Mecklenburg is still very much a mystery.

Conclusion regarding William Kelly of Mecklenburg Co Virginia - Having gone deep into this "rabbit hole" I have conclude that William Kelly of Mecklenburg Co Virginia is not of my O'Kelley family and he is a descendant of Giles Kelly explaining why they never changed their name from Kelly to O'Kelley. If Charles and Mary named their first born son William then I believe he must have been so named after Charles's grandfather William Kelly the merchant and gentleman who died in Kells Ireland in 1748.   What happened to their son?  I can only conclude that he died young leaving no descendents or maybe he got lost in the sea of other William O'Kelleys.  I leave William in my story solely so future researchers will know I looked at this and came to this conclusion. 


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 Whiteheaddna.com website.