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At present the Clan Connelly are scattered to the far corners of the globe, predominantly in Scotland, however there are three distinct origins to the Irish surname Connelly. These origins are in the tribe names O'Conghaile of Connacht and of Monaghan, and O'Conghalaigh of Munster.The Monaghan tribe was the most important of these in early times, as it was one of the 'four tribes of Tara', and a branch of the southern O'Neill Clan. It later lost this prominent position when it was forced out of its original territory during the Anglo-Norman invasion and the arrival of Duke William of Hastings in 1066.A.D.
The Munster Connolly's were of great importance in West Cork and were subjects to the O'Donovans. Today the name is most frequently recorded in the three counties where it originated, namely, Monaghan, Galway and Cork.
Several spelling variations were found in the archives researched. Most of these were the result of families trying to translate the name from the Gaelic to the english or vice versa. Amongst the many variations of the name Connelly, from time to time, included Connolly,Conolly,Connally, O'Connolly, Connolley, Connally, Connelly, Conoley, Connaleigh, Connelay, O'Conghaile, O'Conghalaigh and these changes in the spelling frequently occurred. It was most common to find the name several different ways during the lifetime of the same person, when he or she was born, married and died.
The legendary Kings of Ireland some 1500.B.C., were descended from King Milesius of Spain, the grandson of Breoghan, (Brian), king of Galicia, Andalusia, Murcia, Castile and Portugal. Milesius, a great General/King, was instrumental in defending Egypt from the King of Ethiopia. Milesius turned his attention northward to Ireland to fulfill an ancirnt Druidic prophecy. He sent an army to explore this fertile island. On finding his son had been murdered by three resident Irish kings, (The Danans), Milesius gathered another army to take his revenge on the Irish. He dies before he embarked on the voyage. His remaining sons conquered Ireland.
Heremon, eldest son of Milesius, reigned in Ireland for fourteen years. His brothers, Heber, Ir and Ithe, named the land Scota or Scotia, their mother's name, the land of the Scots. This name would later be taken by the Irish King Colla in 357.A.D., when he was exiled to Scotland, leaving the name Ir - land, land of the Ir, the youngest of the sons of Milesius.
The four Irish Kingdoms eventually broke into five separate nations under the High King, or 'Ard Righ'. This great Gaelic family of Connelly emerged in later years on Monnaghan. They settled in very ancient times in that county and formed part of one of the four tribes of Tara. They were descended from Congal, a 10th century cheif of the southern Hy Niall. The family name sept claim descendancy from Mahon, brother of the geart King Brian Boru of Ireland, who died in the battle of Contarf in the year 1014. The sept flourished for the next three or four centuries. They were affected by the Cromwellian invasions in the mid 17th century. Notable amongst the family at this time was Connolly of Monaghan.
In 1172.A.D. Dermott McMurroch, King of Leinster, in his struggle for position of Ard Righ, King of all ireland, had requested king Henry II, of England for assistance. Many proud, native Irish Families lost their cheiftainships, territories and possessions following 1172 and the spoils were divided amongst the Norman knights and nobles, led by Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke. This was followed by Cromwell's invasion in 1640, when further loss of land befell the unfortunate Irish people. Later Ulster, in the north was seeded with protestant Scottish and English.
In 1845, the great potato famine caused widespread misery and poverty, and the exodus from Ireland began. Within 50 years the population was reduced by more than half.
many Irish joined the armada of sailing ships, which sailed from Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Holyhead, Liverpool and Glasgow, bound for the new world or for Australia. Some romantics called these ships the White Sails, designed originally to hold 100 persons but frequently sailed with 400 to 500 people on board. Others more realistically called these the Coffin Ships, when 30-40% of the passengers died of desease and the elements.
Some of the first immigrants in North America which could be considered kinsmen of the sept Connelly and of that same family were, Michael and Thomas Connally, settled in Philadelphia Pa. in 1834 and 1856. respectively, M Connolley settled in New York in 1820; John Connolly settled in Virginia in 1773; another John Connolly settled in Maryland in 1776; Margaret, Mary, Michael, Patrick, Richard and Thomas Connolly all landed in Pensylvania between 1772 and 1880; Terrance Connoly settled in New Jersey in 1773.
The New World was a challenge to the ingenious Irish. They played an important part in building the nation, the railroads, the coalmines, bridges and canals. They lent their culture to the arts, sciences, commerce, religion and the professions.
The Irish moved westwards with the wagon trains, and settled in the mid west, some trecking over the Rockies to the distant west coast. During the War of Independance, some were loyal to the cause, joining the Irish Brigades. Others were loyal to the Crown, and moved north into Canada, becoming known as the United Empire Loyalists and being granted lands on the banks of the St Lawrence and Niagra Peninsula.
Meanwhile the family name Connelly produced many prominent people, Joseph John Connolly, canadian lawyer and politician; and Sir William Connolly, Australian engineer.
A notable bearer of the name was James Connolly, originally from Monaghan; he took part in the Easter Rebellion of 1916 in Dublin, signed the Declaration of Independence, was injured in the ensuing fight and later executed while still unable to stand.
Other famous bearers include Mrs Cornelia Connelly, (1809-79), who established the 'Society of the Holy Child Jesus'.
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