August 12, 2022 New: James Thomas O'Kelley, a traceable male O'Kelley descendant of Benjamin O'Kelley has tested and his DNA results indicate the common family tree recorded in books by Aletha Jane Macon, Harold O'Kelley, and J Fred O'Kelly that lists Thomas, Charles, and Benjamin as brothers isn't valid. The 111 marker tests of descendents of Benjamin, Thomas and Charles indicate that these three brothers were cousins of different degrees, the results of James Thomas O'Kelley indicate that Benjamin is likely a 4 or 5 cousin to my 4th Great Grandfather Charles and the grandfather we share may have been born around 1650 and Benjamin is perhaps a 6 or 7th cousin to Thomas. DNA also suggests that Charles and Thomas were likely 1st or 2nd cousins and because all three men were well accepted in America and married American born women from good families it is possible that Thomas, Charles, and Benjamin may have descended from Thomas and Hororna who were born in Ireland in 1665 and came to America in 1693 with five children and believed to have settled with the Huguenots in Manikan Town in Henrico Co Virginia which is today Goochland Co VA. The forenames Charles and Francis are not of Irish origin, they are French and could have been due to Thomas and Hororna's French Huguenot influence. No doubt Francis in Benjamin's line comes from Francis Marion a Revolution War hero from the Carolinas.
I find it very understandable that Thomas, Charles and Benjamin could be mistaken as a brothers after all we find the names of Thomas, Charles, and Benjamin repeated over and over in all three lines giving reason to think they share parents but repeated names was common in Irish families, it is how the Mac and O surname were invented, because they Irish reused both forenames and surnames so much in the same physical location people need a way to know who was who so they used names and their names actually became very long names because they often included both Mac and O were used to help people know who was the son of whom and who was the brother of whom. For example in Ireland I would be Rick Mac Conley O'Kelley meaning my father was Conley O'Kelley.
What can be relied upon as fact is Benjamin has a Revolution War Pension Application in our national archives where he claims he was born in King and Queen County Virginia, a grandson of Charles wrote in his Bible that Charles was born in VA about 1760 and I know of no written documents to establish when and where Thomas O'Kelley was born. Because Charles, Francis and John O'Kelley married Mary, Delilah, and Frances Crowder and their father lived in Prince George Co, I suspect Charles, Francis, and John were also born in Prince George Co and likely grew up with the Crowder sisters. Thomas was a life long friend with a Collins who had ties to King and Queen Co so being a cousin and not a brother Thomas may have been also born in King and Queen.
The forename Benjamin has been popular with the Irish long before Benjamin Franklin was born. It was Beircheart in Gaelic but Benjamin in English meaning "Brethren" or in Hebrew "The son of the "right hand" so like the forename of Thomas, Benjamin was also prominent in Irish families but no doubt the popularity of Benjamin Franklin certainly accounts for the many Benjamin Franklin O'Kelleys in my family so I find it very likely that my 4th great grandfather Charles had a brother named Benjamin who was confused by book authors Aletha Jane Macon and Harold Ernst O'Kelley with this Benjamin whose Revolution War Pension Application gives his birth place as King and Queen Co Virginia. I also find it very likely that James O'Kelley and Anna Dean could be Benjamin's parents as Dr Thomas K O'Kelley claimed and a different James O'Kelley be the grandfather of my 4th great grandfather Charles O'Kelley and Anna Dean and Elizabeth Dean could be aunt and niece and while it seems certain that Charles's father was named either William or James if his father was named James DNA would prove he would be an different from the James O'Kelley that fathered Benjamin.
Author and family researcher Harold Ernst O'Kelley believing that Thomas and Benjamin were brothers and not cousins uses in his 1985 book Benjamin's pension application on file with the National Archives place our family to King and Queen Co and on into Caroline Co VA and to a William Kelley a merchant living there and I think this might be likely for Benjamin or Thomas but not for Charles, Francis, and John, I am certain the were born in Prince George County and that is where Thomas Dean and his daughter Elizabeth Dean also lived.
What we know from the American Revolutionary War Pension application of Benjamin was he claimed to have been born in 1761 is it lists him as Kelly and states he was born in 1761 in King and Queen Co Va and he served twice in the North Caroline Militia, both times he was drafted, about 12 to 18 months apart and both times he served for 3 months. He severed in Captain Parrish's Company under the Command of Col Farmer in the NC Regiment. On his second draft he served in a Col Taylor's NC Reg again in Captain Parrish's company. You can view the hand written documents here. He gives the year he was born on the bottom of page 5 and continued on the top of page 6 as 1761. The 1850 US Buncombe Co North Carolina appears to support that the Benjamin of the pension application was born in Virginia about 1761. Benjamin was elderly and didn't have a photo ID so he might have been guessing at the year he was born.
Author and attorney Ronald Lansings wrote a 2005 book about Nimrod, one of Benjamin's sons and he reprints data he gathered from an 1880 newspapers where they reportedly claimed Nimrod was born about 1780 or at least five years before Benjamin's descendants believe Benjamin and Mary were married. I am not sure why this could not have been possible certainly Benjamin and Mary could have lived as husband and wife well before their marriage record 1784, many did common law during the Revolution as the legal marriage authority which was the Bishops of the Church of England had mostly all fled back to England so many had to seek common law marriage so Nimrod's birth year isn't impossible. A newspaper article written in 1886 about Nimrod made a claim that he was born in Ireland and educated to become a priest and certainly that too could be possible, the ships did run in both directions and it was a common practice for the Gentry Irish to send their children away to be educated.
Alethea Jane Macon makes a claim that Benjamin purchased 200 acres of land in the lower district of Mecklenburg Co VA in 1796 which he sold in 1803 to Jacob Shelar.
Benjamin claimed in a pension application that he was born in King and Queen in 1761 died in 1850 in Buncombe Co, NC. He was very elderly and in poor health at the time and his memory very confused. He appeared in the census in 1850 in Buncombe, North Carolina.19
Benjamin Kelley and Mary Williams were married November 22, 1784 in Warren Co NC. Mary Williams father Nimrod Williams posted the marriage bond.
Benjamin O'Kelley and Mary Williams had the following children: