KELLY, (Irish Gaelic: O Ceallaigh)
O'KELLY is a genuine 'O' surname which belongs to the oldest
class of native Irish surnames. It means 'Descendent of Ceallach'
(war or contention), and is the name of several distinct and
illustrious families in various parts of Ireland. O'KELLY was
chief of the great Uí Maine clan and ruled over an extensive
territory in the counties of Galway and Roscommon.
Whilst the name "O'Kelly"
dominated from the Viking Era in the 9th century to the middle
of the 16th century, the "O" was dropped during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the name became Kelly.
This arose from the policy of
Queen Elizabeth I of England to break the influence of the
gaelic chieftains by rewarding them with land and noble status
in return for abandoning their Irish customs. Typical of this
was the granting of land and rights to Colla O'Kelly, Seventh
lord of Screen in 1601AD in exchange form him dropping the
"O" from the surname.
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