Skip to content
  • Start free trial

Origins of the Kelly surname

A collage of historical images including two family portraits and a postcard of people boarding a ship

What does the name Kelly mean?

Kelly is a surname with a number of origins, but most commonly it is Irish (where it is still one of the most prevalent names). Kelly derives as a patronymic name, as an anglicisation of the Gaelic 'O Ceallaigh' (descendant of Ceallach). More rarely the Kelly surname can be geographical in origin, and be derived as a description of someone who comes from one of the multiple places in Britain named 'Kelly' or 'Kellie' in places as diverse as Devon, Forfarshire and Fife.

Alternative variations of the name Kelly

Kelly, Kelley, Kellie, Kely, O'Kelly

I’ve managed to trace back to the mid-1500s! I can’t believe it! Utterly engrossing and I have uncovered some quite moving and heartbreaking stories attached to various ancestors. You don’t need any qualifications to start - just time patience, and some information.

SS
Stuart
TrustPilot review
1 of 3

Start your family tree

Trace your family back in time. Make new discoveries and see what other Findmypast family historians in our genealogy community have discovered about the Kellys.

Sign up to get started

Delve deeper into the Kelly family's history

Where do most Kellys live?

In 1921, most Kellys lived in London.


Census records trace your ancestors through each generation, so you can follow where your relatives lived through each decade.

Interesting facts about Kellys

How common is your surname?

86th most common surname in the UK

We have 287,000 records for the Kelly surname. The oldest one dates back to .

Who were Kellys most likely to marry?

Smiths

&

Murphys

Our Marriage record sets tell us which families married Kellys.

What are the most common Kelly first names?

  • John
  • James
  • Mary
  • Margaret

Our birth record sets tell us the names of Kelly family members

Common jobs for Kellys

Men and women often performed different types of jobs, so these are displayed by gender to maintain their historical accuracy.

Common Female occupations for Kellys in 1921
Dressmaker

1,079

Domestic Servant

937

Charwoman

831

Laundress

807

Servant

667

Common Male occupations for Kellys in 1921
General Labourer

2,394

Coal Miner

1,821

Tailor

1,070

Dock Labourer

949

Able Seaman

816

An image of a census transcript and a picture of a dairy farmer holding two milk jugs

Census records provide incredible detail on names, ages, marital statuses, occupations and more.

We found over 420,000 family trees with the Kelly surname

Trace your family back in time and see what other Findmypast family historians in our genealogy community have discovered about the Kellys.

Search for a relative in our family trees

Share your discoveries

Find out more about your family in our records

or try an advanced search

Start your family history journey

Start free trial

Start free trial