Killilea Family History
by Patrick Killelea firstname.lastname@example.org
Ár sloinne Mac Giolla Leith agus gach éagsúlacht ar é a thiocfaidh as Contae na Gaillimhe, Éire, agus in aice láimh.Our Killilea surname and all variations on it come from Co. Galway, Ireland, and nearby.
Given the rarity of our name and the common geographic origin, most Killileas are probably related within the last few hundred years. There are about 1000 Killileas with some form of our last name in the US. There are also significant numbers Australia, Ireland, England, and South Africa.
The Killilea Surname
The spelling "Killilea" is an English spelling of the original Irish Gaelic surname Mac Giolla Leith, pronounced something like "Mac Gilla Lay". There are many variants of the Killilea surname in English, the most common ones being Killilea, Killelea, and Killalea. Even within several generations of the same line one can see the spelling vary in official records. To get an idea of which spellings are most popular, here are the current US whitepages.com telephone page counts and 1911 Irish census counts for the various spellings people are known to have used:
Here are the locations of Killaleas, Killeleas, and Killileas from the 1911
Irish census plotted on Google maps, in the cases where there were 5 or more
Killilea residents, and where Google could find
the town location.
Our name probably means "son of the grey guy" (Mac Giolla Leith). It has also been suggested that it may mean "church in a meadow", or may
be derived from Killala Bay, the town of Killyleagh, or the towns of
(Killalaghton is in the area of east Co. Galway where the Killeleas come from).
This site also has Killalea,
Killelagh, and Killileagh as ancient place names.
Fr. William Quinlan of Stamford, CT, however, points out that Killelea is
unlikely to be derived from a place name:
I can't find my copy of Edward MacLysaght's "Irish Family Names," but I do remember that toponymics were not used in Irish naming. The fanciful story of the derivation of your name is an ingenious back-formation concocted by an intelligent person who knew enough Irish to see the word for church in "Kill" and had enough sophistication in English to recognize the archaic/poetic word for meadow--lea. Lis is the word for field in Irish, although lea probably derives from the same celtic root. However, the last part of your name was spelled "lea" so that it would be pronounced "lay"--reflecting the pronunciation and orthography of the time it was anglicized--and doesn't refer to a field at all. You're likely to find MacLysaght's books in any large library--it will give you the most scholarly and most likely correct derivation of your name. MacLysaght's name will give you an idea about your own, however. In Irish, MacLysaght is "Mac Giolla Iasachta" and your name is "Mac Giolla ---- something or other." The dropping of the "Mac" left a hard consonant--and that's how you ended up with a "k" in your monogram.
I looked up the MacLysaght book and here is the entry for Killilea:
Another book on Irish names, "Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall: Irish names and
surnames" By Patrick Woulfe has this:
Pádraig is perfectly correct about the surnames formed with Mac Giolla + (a third element, usually the name of a saint), eg McElholm (Mac Giolla Choilm), McElhinney (Mac Giolla Chainnigh). (By the way, a Phádraig, have you come across surnames formed with Ó + Giolla + 3rd element? Why do all Giolla surnames take Mac?)
So Mac Giolla Leith fits with a known pattern of people being named for red/blond/dark hair color. On the other hand, Derek Killilea of Zimbabwe says that the Kill*lea name was originally Mac Giolla Lae, meaning "son of the day servant", and that the Killeleas were hereditary servants to the O'Neill famly of Ulster. This fits well with other stories of our origin in Ulster and known DNA relation to the Scots, who were originally Ulster Irish, and moved back and forth in several waves.
(Mac) KILLILEA Notwithstanding the extent of emigration from the west - eight entire families called Killilea went to America from the parish of Ahascragh, Co. Galway, in 1850 - this name is today little less numerous in that county and in Co. Roscommon than it was a century ago. We meet it, especially in Co. Galway, often in sixteenth and seventeenth century records, such as the Fiants, Civil Survey and Books of Survey & Distribution, under the earlier anglicized forms of MacKillilea, MacGillilea, etc. The latter is near the original Gaelic form, perhaps Mac Giolla Leith. The substitution of Kil- for Gil- is quite usual, especially in Connacht names.
No matter what its origin, the distinct and rare Killilea surname make it easy to find our cousins and naturally creates a community out of our extended family.
The Killilea Surname By Date
Keith Killilea of Ireland claims that our name came from Ulster about 900 years ago: Keith Killilea (Ireland) wrote at 3:07am on January 1st, 2009 on Facebook:
The Killilea name came from a few families that moved from Ulster about 900 years ago to settle in East / North County Galway, which for a long time that name always remain mostly in this region. The Irish spelling of the name in these posts is correct but it is not a direct Irish translation of Killilea, somewhere a jump was made from the Irish name to the Killilea name of today. There is about half a dozen different spellings of Killilea such as Killalea, Killian, etc that all came from the original Killilea spelling. It's a bit of a mystery still the history of Killilea, hope this helps to sheds some light on it. :) My family has been here in East Galway for many generations, I don't know myself of anyone who left.
Versions of the Killilea name are found in "Report of the deputy keeper of the public records", Volume 22, By Public Record Office, Ireland, in section VI, "Index to Calendar of Fiants of Elizabeth". Fiants were royal decrees in Ireland. Since Elizabeth died in 1603, these pardons were presumably issued before 1603. I haven't found the originals that describe the offense and give the date of the pardon yet.
McGilaleghe, Wm., pardon, 2503.
Killilea is mentioned in "Books of Survey and Distribution, Vol. III, County of Galway" a 1962 Irish Manuscripts Commission transcription by Breandan Mac Giolla Choille of the records of land confiscated from the Irish in Co. Galway because of their rebellion against English rule in 1641. There are no mentions of the Killilea name in the books for Counties Clare, Mayo, or Roscommon.
p. 235 (photo) shows 43 acres of land in Killogilline (now called Killogilleen) Parish, Dunkellin Barony, Co. Galway, owned in 1641 by John McWilliam McConnor McGillela, confiscated from him and given to Andrew Blake and the Duke of York. Aslo, 63 acres of land in the same parish owned in 1641 by Teige McWilliam McTeige McGillelea, confiscated from him and given to Richard Power, the Duke of York, and Oliver Martin et al.
p. 246 (photo) shows 129 acres of land in Killora Parish, Dunkellin Barony, Co. Galway, owned in 1641 by John McWilliam McConnor McKillilea, confiscated from him and given to Charles Morgan.
The Ulster Hearth Money Roll - Armagh, 1663-1665 has exactly "Killelea" as a place name, perhaps meaning the current town of Killyleagh, though Killyleagh is in the next county over (County Down) not County Armagh. The "hearth money roll" was a tax on hearths.
There is a reference probably to the same "Killelea" location in the book "Strafford and Ireland; the history of his vice-royalty with an account of his trial (1923)":
Common lands had vanished by the Tudor period. Saxon tribalism preserved them right down through the ages. Celtic tribalism "passed" them rapidly into private hands. Every effort to create commons met with the same fate through what Strafford used to call "that wish to prefer particular ends to the detriment of the Commonweal". The commons of the Norman cities were short lived. The last of them fell to the Nugents in 1589. 5 Those created by James round the Jacobean cities lasted barely 20 years. The Down survey shows that the Jacobean Commissioners had created a fair number in 1610. One only, that of Killelea, survives to-day.
Killilea is mentioned in the "1749 Elphin Census" of households in Co. Roscommon
and nearby, edition edited by Marie-Louise Legg, published by the Irish
Manuscripts Commission in 2004:
p. 227 James Killelagh, papist, laborer, 1 female papist servant St. Peter's Parish, Co. Roscommon, Place of abode: Athlone
p. 244 Edmond Kellelea, papist, laborer, 2 papist children under 14, 1 papist child above 14 Kiltoom Parish, Co. Roscommon, Place of abode: Bigg=Berries
p. 261 Mathew Killea, papist, laborer, 1 male papist servant, 1 female papist servant Darby Killea, papist, laborer, 1 papist child under 14, 2 papist children above 14 1 male papist servant, 1 female papist servant Both in Killyon (Killian) Parish, Co. Galway, Place of abode: Cloonscarbry
p. 262 Andrew Killea, papist, laborer, 1 female papist servant. Peter Killea, papist, laborer, 1 papist child under 14, 2 papist children above 14 1 male papist servant, 1 female papist servant William Killea, papist, laborer, 1 female papist servant. Thomas Killea, papist, laborer, 1 papist child under 14, 1 papist child above 14 1 male papist servant, 1 female papist servant Mark Killea, papist, laborer, 1 female papist servant. Anthony Killea, papist, laborer, 1 papist child under 14, 1 papist child above 14 1 male papist servant, 1 female papist servant All in Killyon (Killian) Parish, Co. Galway, Place of abode: Cloonscarbry
p. 454 Hugh Killalea & wife, papist, laborer, 2 papist children under 14 Roger Killalea & wife, papist, laborer, 2 papist children under 14 1 female papist servant Patt. Killalea & wife, papist, laborer, 1 papist child under 14 All in Boyle Parish, Co. Roscommon, Place of abode: Doon
Charles Killelea & wife, papist, laborer, 4 papist children above 14 Boyle Parish, Co. Roscommon, Place of abode: Sheegory
Our name is mentioned twice in the 1796 Irish Flax Growers list. The Irish Linen Board published a list of nearly 60,000 individuals in 1796. Spinning wheels were awarded based on the number of acres planted. People who planted one acre were awarded 4 spinning wheels and those growing 5 acres were awarded a loom. Also known as the Spinning Wheel list or the Flax Growers Bounty.
Surname First Name Parish/Barony County
The "Tithe Applotment Books" for Killaan Parish in Galway in 1825 has Lawrence Killally on Page 10 owning 3.32 acres (Not sure how to read this but I think it is less than an acre) and William Killilea on Page 16 owning 82.20 acres. See https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-14160-77585-8?cc=1804886&wc=MM1Q-63K:1302442791#uri=https%3A%2F%2Ffamilysearch.org%2Frecords%2Fwaypoint%2FMM1Q-DTX%3An778676587%3Fcc%3D1804886
Most of the Australian Killileas are descendants of Edward Killilea, one of the Kiltormer Four, a group of four young men who killed two brothers in a fight in 1836. The Irish National Archives list two Killileas sentenced to transportation to Australia: Edward, and William Killilea 12 years later:
There is an Australian state park south of Sydney named for Edward Killalea the convict. See http://www.killalea.org.au/ and http://members.speedweb.com.au/thore/killaleabeach.htm
Mark Killelea (1787 - 1836/7) was a colonist of the San Patricio Irish Colony in South Texas in 1834. He arrived in South Texas as a widower with two grown daughters. He was from Ireland via New York via New Orleans to Texas. He and his daughters were involved in the successful Texas Revolution of 1835-36. His daughter Rose married Peter Mahony in New Orleans in April 1837 - they probably married in South Texas in late 1836 after Texas won their revolution from Mexico. When Mexico lost the revolution all priests evacuated to Mexico with the retreating Mexican Troops. Peter and Rose went to New Orleans in the spring of 1837 to have their marriage solemnized by the Priest in St. Patrick's Catholic Church in New Orleans.
Kinvara, Ireland Baptisms June-October 1843 From LDS film #0979692 Civil Parish Kinvarradoorus, Diocese Kilmacduagh:
Date Child Father Mother Sponsor 1 Sponsor 2
Michael Killilea from Killane Parish, Co. Galway, got rich as a construction contractor on the Illinois & Michigan canal connecting Lake Michigan and the Mississippi about 1845. He settled in Ottawa, IL and sent for his siblings Patrick, James, John, and Ann. He set them up with farms around Ottawa, IL. The Chicago Historical Society has records of payments to Michael Killilea for his construction work.
Michael Killeleagh, 40, laborer, took the ship Empire from Liverpool to New York, arriving on 30 November 1846.
More Killileas sentenced to transportation to Australia:
Publisher: Waterford Mail
Bridget Killales 35
From New World immigrants: a consolidation of ship passenger lists and ..., Volume 1 By Michael Tepper:
From The London Times:
Oct. 6 1848 The Late Rebellion Clonmel - Tuesday. Since the commencement of the commission, the number of prisoners committed to gaol for trial has considerably increased by the capture of several of the fellows connected with the recent outbreak and the attack on the police barrack of Glen Bower, the Slate Quarries and Portlaw. Committed by the magistrates, H. W. Briscoe, and R. D. Coulson R. M. of Carrick-on-Suir. The following is a correct list of the committals since the 20th of September; among them is the editor of the Waterford Chronicle, and two ladies charged with having arms, powder, shot, and a quantity of bullets in their possession in a proclaimed district, and with aiding John O'Mahony the rebel leader, to effect his escape. One of the ladies had a quantity of shot and bullets in her bonnet when arrested. It is likely that some of these cases will be disposed of at the present commission: - James Neill, Patrick Walsh, John Moore, Edmond Landergan, John Hayes, William Rochford, James Landergan, Richard Daniel, Timothy Connell, William Crotty, Michael Comerford, James Sheedy, charged with burning the police barracks at the Slate Quarries and being in arms against the Queen's authority. Thomas Bourke and John Shea attacking the police barracks at Glen Bower, and shooting at the police. Edmond Egan and Patrick Cunningham, high treason. John Killilea, concerned in treasonable practices. Ellen Mary Power, having gunpowder & ., in a proclaimed district; and also for harboring John O'Mahony, charged with treason. Eugene M'Carthy, aiding Smith O'Brien in an insurrectionary movement. Thomas Hennessy, Pierce Power, and Denis M'Carthy, concerned in treasonable practices. Jane O'Ryan, bailed to appear at the Special Commission, ammunition & ., found in her house.
Rodger Killelea 30 M Laborer
"The Famine Immigrants": Lists of Irish Immigrants Arriving at the Port of
New York 1846-1851. Published 1985 by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore. Book 3:
sailed from port of Galway TO port of New York:
Surname First Name Age Sex Occup Ship & Date of Arrival in NY
John Killelea 25 M Labourer Ireland USA
In 1849 there is also an account of a Killilea presumably involved in anti-English politics, in The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (New South Wales, Australia) Saturday 20 January 1849 (Same article appears in New Zealander, Volume 4, Issue 284, 17 February 1849, Page 6)
ARRESTS IN IRELAND.-The political arrests of the past week have, for the first time in recent Irish history, been extended to females. In the county of Waterford Miss Power has been arrested for harbouring her nephew, O'Mahoney, whose capture has not yet been effected. Nearly about the same time Mr. Killilea, the proprietor and editor of the Waterford Chronicle, was arrested whilst travelling in one of Branconi's cars. Mr. Killilea is said to have been, when arrested, armed with pistols and provided with ammunition, but made no attempt at resistance. Being brought for the night to the Bridewell at Carrick, he was next morning removed to Clonmel, Miss Power being conveyed by the same escort. Killilea's wife joined him on his journey to the prison, and a Dublin paper states that "Mr. Killilea gave his arm to each of the ladies, and in that way they walked to the gaol, accompanied by the police." The Limerick Chronicle gives the names of fifteen persons arrested, some of them charged with harbouring Richard O'Gorman, and others for appearing in arms and for treasonable practices. Amongst the latter class of prisoners is ex Quarter-master Hanrahan, 13th Light Infantry, who was apprehended near Slieve natnon(?), and who is said to have had a commission as colonel in the insurgent army in his pocket. Mr. Fogarty, a gentleman hitherto supposed to be unconnected with politics, and Mr. Burke, of Palias, near Borrisoleiith, have also been arrested. Some blacksmiths and twenty-five peasants have been committed to gaol, the latter in Waterford; fourteen other peasants were arrested at the village of Comragh. Another lady, a Miss O'Ryan, was arrested for harbouring O'Mahoney. who seems to have been peculiarly unlucky in bringing ladies into trouble; and Mr. O'Ryan, a relative of Miss O'Ryan's, is also in custody. Observer. October 2.
That must be John Killilea, according to The history of Irish periodical
literature by Richard Robert Madden:
John Killelea 26y Male Shoe Maker Ireland
Daily Southern Cross, Volume X, Issue 631, 15 July 1853, Page 2 mentions a
Patrick Gillelay, soldier in New Zealand:
State Gazette. (Austin, Tex.), Vol. 7, No. 35, Ed. 1, Saturday, April 19, 1856:
Martin Killalea 20 M Laborer United States
James Killelia of Co. Galway died in the US Civil War. His son John J. Killelia became a ship captain on the Great Lakes.
Patrick Killalea went to Australia in 1866 and lived around Newtown.
Killelle, Peter 25y M Lab England United States Steerage
Griffith's Valuation of Ireland was a survey carried out from 1830 to 1868 and included these Killileas as landowners:
Gillalea Michael Aghnagollop Kiltoghert Leitrim
CENSUS YR: 1870 STATE: California COUNTY: San Francisco DIVISION: 8th Ward, 1st Precinct--San Francisco
S.S. Queen arrived in New York on June 9, 1879: Annie Killelea 19 F Servant Ireland America Steerage
SS City of New York Liverpool, England via Queenstown, Ireland to New York 19 May 1880: Cath Killilea 27 F Spinster Ireland US Steerage
British Census of 1881 lists a Thomas Killelea, born 1831, married, watchmaker, living at Trinity St, Hartlepool, Durham, England
RMS City of Rome Liverpool, England & Queenstown, Ireland to New York 26 June 1882: S Killalea 20 m Labr England Steerage
SS Catalonia Liverpool, England via Queenstown, Ireland to Boston 30 April 1883: Martin Killilea 23 M Laborer Ireland Ire, USA Steerage
In The New York Times January 22, 1888:
ALDERMANIC PATRONAGE. Clerk of the Common Council Francis J. Twomey yesterday announced the following list of Aldermanic appointments: R.E. Mott, deputy clerk, $2,500 per annum; Bernard Jacobs, messenger, $900; Robert Benjamin, Michael Ford, John R. Farley, Charles B. Duryea, clerks, each $1,200; Henry W. Hagan, William C. Sohn, James S. McGovern, clerks, each $1,000; David W. Carvalho, Librarian, $1,000; Hener McKee, Sergeant-at-Arms, $900; John J. Killilea, messenger, $900; Bernard O'Neil, clerk, $1,000.
Joseph Killelea from Ottawa, IL, son of Michael Killilea the contractor, was one of the founders of the first Catholic fraternity in America, Phi Kappa, when he was at Brown University in 1889.
SS Servia Liverpool, England and Queenstown, Ireland to New York 24 December 1889: Mary Killilea 22 F Spinster Ireland Ireland No.2 Forw'd Mass Immig't 1 Q'town
SS Nestorian Glasgow, Scotland, and Moville and Galway, Ireland to Boston, Massachusetts 17 June 1891: KILLILA My 18 F Dom Ireland Haneshill 1 Steerage Aft Settler
There was a Captain Tom Killilea on the NY police department, in Hell's Kitchen:
21 Jan 1897, John Killilea of Waterford has his obituary published in The American Stationer:
Charles Killelea, an oiler, was on the USS Boston in 1898 when it sailed into Manila Bay to fight alongside Admiral Dewey in the Spanish American War.
Anne Killelea Shortt, November 11 2014, Ramsbottom, United Kingdom says:
Two of my seven Great Uncles who gave their lives in WW1. John Killelea who died
at the Somme and Joseph Killelea who died from wounds received at Dardanelles,
Gallipoli. They both served with the Lancashire Fusiliers as did their Father
and Uncles before them. Very proud of them all. Two of my seven Great Uncles
who gave their lives in WW1. John Killelea who died at the Somme and Joseph
Killelea who died from wounds received at Dardanelles, Gallipoli. Very proud of
Some famous Killileas are
There is a Killelea construction company in Manchester, England: http://www.killelea.co.uk/
Rory Kilalea is a film production manager.
By testing male Killileas to find their Y-chromosome patterns, we can prove how
closely we are actually related. The Y-chromosome is useful here because only men have it. It goes only from father to son, so it should
match up with family names.
The result of the test is a set of "short tandem repeat" (STR) counts, meaning the number of times a short pattern of DNA "letters" is repeated (the possible letters are G, A, T, and C). For example, at a certain location in the Y-chromosome, the pattern of 4 letters "GATA" may be repeated three times in most men: GATAGATAGATA. In others it may be repeated 4 times or 2 times. The number of repeats at a given location is what is being measured in the tests. Each location is called a marker. Some websites use the word "locus" instead of marker.
Mutation rates for the different markers vary considerably, so differences may be more or less significant depending on which marker is different. For example, marker 385b is known to have a high mutation rate, so it is not very significant.
Commercial Y-chromosome testing services mail you a cheek swab like a Q-tip. You swab the inside of your cheek and mail it back. Other testing places use a tiny vial of mouthwash in a similar way.
The cost is proportional to the number of markers tested. A 20 marker test from Genex costs $119. Here are some well-known testing companies, though there are many others too:
Please do one of the tests and let me know the results!
The Y-chromosome doesn't tell you anything about your health, or genetic diseases. It's just "junk DNA" which is not used for anything by the body, but makes a good marker for paternal lines because of the guaranteed father-to-son transmission, and relatively high mutation rate, about one one-step change every 150 years.
The Y-chromosome test tells you more about who you are and where you came from, at least on your paternal line. It gives your kids a sense of identity, and hopefully a group of cousins they will have as friends throughout life.
What we know so far
So far seven Kill*lea men of unknown relation to each other have been tested. Six of them are close matches to each other, all probably in the R1b haplogroup. A haplogroup is a set of people who all share certain DNA patterns because of descent from a common ancestor. The fifth man, Michael Joseph Killelea from NJ, is distinctly different, and in the I Haplogroup, which is typically Scandinavian. That might indicate Viking descent, so there might be two completely distinct Kill*lea families.
For comparison to non-relatives, I included Czar Nicholas II of Russia and Genghis Khan. 75% (12 out of 16) of the Czar's markers match Francis R. Killelea's markers, showing how close of a match you can get to another random man in the R1b haplogroup if you don't test enough markers. So it is important to test the largest number of markers you can afford. The Czar's most ancient known male-line ancestor is from northern Germany near Holland. Genghis Khan is in a different haplogroup completely.
In the table below, you can see that Patrick matches Terry, John, and Francis at most markers, but not at marker 385b for example. Patrick has 15 repeats of the short pattern at that marker where they have 14 repeats. Dave Killilea has 13 repeats. Marker 385b is known to have a fast mutation rate so it is not surprising to see a small difference even in men who know their exact relation, but given that there are those small differences, the common ancestor probably lived several hundred years ago. Michael is related much farther back in time to the others, thousands of years ago. All the others are close to the "Scottish Modal" pattern, which occurs in 22% of Scottish men, but only 2% of Irish men.
The fact that the most common Kill*lea pattern is typically Scottish might indicate that we are descended from a gallóglach. Gallóglaigh (plural) were Scottish mercenaries imported to Ireland as personal armies for the Irish nobility.
Francis R Killelea had the most markers tested and his markers are the most common (modal) for everyone tested, so he probably has markers which are most like our common ancestor. Differences from Francis R Killelea are in red.
Online Killilea Groups
There are several groups set up on Facebook so we can all easily chat about this:
It's even better if you can look up and meet your local Killileas in person. It's hard to pick up the phone and call an unfamiliar Killilea near you, but please do. I've done it many times now and have always been happy I did. Once you meet them, they're not unfamiliar. In fact, they're family!
And here's a video of the Galway dialect of Irish being sung, just so you can hear the language of
our Killilea ancestors. It's a famous patriotic song.
Guy tries to get by in Ireland entirely in Irish (youtube.com)
Chinese guy learns Irish (youtube.com)