Donnelly (surname)

Donnelly is an Irish surname. It is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic "Ó Donnghaile",[1] "Ó" meaning male descendant of ("Ní" is the female equivalent), and Donnghaile (or Donnghal),[2] a personal name composed of the elements "donn" (brown), plus "gal" (valour).[1] The name O’Donnelly is derived from the descendants of Donnghaile (Donnghal) (an individual who lived during 10th century in Ireland)[3] who was the great grandson of Domhnall, King of Aileach.[4] Early ancestors of this surname were a part of Cenél nEoghain and the Uí Néill as descendants from the line of Eógan mac Néill one of the seven sons of Niall Noígíallach (an Irish king).

It is most commonly found in County Tyrone in mid- and west Ulster.[5] It was so common in Roscommon that at some point, a branch of people with the Donnelly surname took on the name of Briscoe instead.[6]

A major stronghold of the (O')Donnelly family was located in Ballydonnelly, today known as Castlecaulfield, United Kingdom. The castle is called both Castle Caulfield and Ballydonnelly, dependent on who one asks. The land in this area traded hands a few times. Toby Caulfield, 1st Baron Caulfeild built a castle where an O'Donnelly residence stood between 1611 and 1619 when he acquired 1,000 acres of the Earls of Tyrone's estates.[citation needed] Patrick Donnelly burned the castle during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. In the 1660s, the Caulfield family was able to restore and re-occupy said castle. Oliver Plunkett and John Wesley both held services in the castle in 1670 and 1767, respectively. However, the castle fell into disrepair around the year 1700.[7] Today, the castle is a State Care Historic Monument in County Tyrone.[8]


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  1. ^ a b Norman, Tess (2003). A World of Baby Names. Penguin. p. 286.
  2. ^ "Last name: Donnelly". The Internet Surname Database.
  3. ^ The most accurate source for the pedigree of Donnghaile (Donnelly) can be found in O’Cleary, Michael, et al, Annals of the Four Masters, see O‘Donovan‘s edition [1] Volume 6, page 2426. Other Irish genealogies (Book of Ballymote and Book of Lecan) have the line of descent of Donnghaile incorrectly stated as the great grandson of Domnall Ilchelgach, High King who died in 561 A.D.
  4. ^ King Domhnall served as co-ruler of Cenél nEoghain from about 896 A.D. with his paternal half brother Niall Glundub until 911 A.D. when King Domhnall abdicated to “enter religious life” and subsequently died in 915 A.D.[2] Hudson, Benjamin, Prophecy of Berchan,Irish and Scottish High Kings in the Middle Ages, Greenwood Press 1996 page 148.
  5. ^ Kenny, Kevin (1998). Making Sense of the Molly Maguires. Oxford University Press. p. 300. ISBN 9780195116311.
  6. ^ Radford, Dwight A.; Betit, Kyle J. (2012). A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Irish Ancestors. Betterway Books. p. 12.
  7. ^ " – Castle Caulfield". Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  8. ^ "State Care Historic Monuments to 31 March 2007" (PDF). Retrieved April 12, 2020.