Last name: Friel

This early Irish surname is an anglicized spelling of the ancient Gaelic O'Firghil, a compound of the elements "fear" meaning "a man" and "gal" - valour, "The gallant man"! It is said that the sept have one of the most distinguished origins in all Ireland, and descend directly from Eoghan, the brother of St. Columcille, the original St Columba, in the 6th century. The latter exiled himself from Ireland being unable to rationalise between the warring tribes, and founded a monastery on the desolate Isle of Iona. The sept was, and still is, located in County Donegal, where they were known as 'coarbs', and held a hereditary position of trust, where in effect they maintained the church lands on behalf of the Primate of Ireland. In addition the chief of the O'Freil's held the right of nominating and inaugurating the Lord of Tirconnell, the chief of the region. The clan were never numerous, and throughout history recordings have been quite rare. One of the earliest is that of Bishop Feargal O'Friel who died in the year 1299, whilst James Friel on June 24th 1847, embarked, probably from Derry, on the ship "Christiana of Liverpool", bound for New York. He was escaping from the 'Potato Famine', then at its height. The O'Friel coat of arms has a the blazon of a gold garb on a red field, with three stars and a cross. The suggested meaning is fortitude and plenty, and adherence to the Christian faith. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Awley O'Friel, which was dated 1203, who was the Abbot of Iona, during the reign of King John of England, known as Lackland, 1199 - 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

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Anna Friel

Anyone know of any Friel's around Ohio/PA in the late 1800's/early 1900's? Trying to trace back some of my families roots. My Dad passed in June and he was a Friel and it means a lot to me to find some stuff:) Also, any of you other Friels have terrible, terrible tempers like mine do? LOL

Mary C. Friel

I just started this journey searching for our family!!! The information I have is a Bernard Friel arrived in Maytown, Illinois. (Near Amboy, ILL) around 1890..... Anyone have more?

Melissa Friel Grossner

Mary, I believe you are related to me! My dad grew up in Ohio, IL. Have you looked on There is some information about the Friel family on there. Good luck, Melissa

can anyone help???

friel or frail
can you help me my name is frail we came from scotland i traced the name back into 1700 hundreds then i lost it. i know there are a lot of frails around donnigal could frail be another miss spelt friel?????.

Darren Friel
Hi, I'm from Donegal & I don't know anyone called 'Frail'. May of been a spelling mistake somewhere all right. I find that I often have to spell out my Surname to people. It's the 'ei' that seems to cause most confusion, I find that I have to pronounce it 'Free-il' for people to understand me. Maybe its just my accent :)

I. Frail
Hi, I am another Frail from Scotland, at least my mother was. Kilmarnock. I live in the United States now. I have seen the name Frail in telephone books here.My mom came from a family of ten children

james friel
correction to dates of columbas lifespan should read 521-597

james friel
my name is james friel. i live in letterkenny co donegal in the heartland of the o frighil territory (irish spelling)the name comes from feargal. brother of st columba 432-497 the family surname was o dochartaigh (doherty)

Jo's Daughter
My mother was an American-born (from Massachusetts) Friel - orphaned at birth. All we know of her history is that her mother was named Anna and came from Donegal. Interesting story.

I am Nathalie Friel living in London but with family orginally from Sligo. What a great story! I heard something along those lines before but maybe now I'm old enough to appreciate it. Friels rock!

Deana Friel
I am Friel from Ireland, a few miles from the border with Derry and Donegal. This description is pretty accurate, most Friels here would know the origins of the name........Friel's can be found in Kilmacrennan area

Evelyn Stone
My maiden name was Freely, a derivative of Friel surname. I was told the first ancestor of this family line was a ship stowaway and came to the states to escape the potato famine. Believe his name was Thomas or James Freely and think he added the extra e,.. Freeley.

great story i have a james friel in my family tree coming over from eire in the 1800s if any friels out there think they may be related feel free to contact me to verify my grandfather was andrew friel born in maryhill in 1890 i have quite a lot of info to share

michael friel
hi im a Friel from Glasgow . I was told the story above by my auntie Anne many many years ago and thought it was just a story. she knew what she was talking about for its almost exact .makes you feel good to know your history(as the song goes)

mike mcgeever
i have just researched my ancestry and travelled around the Calton and Barras area visiting many spots where my ancestors lived from 1845 onwards. The Mitchell building researchers gave us a lot of info via the Poor Law accounts. My line of Friel came over from Sligo. don't know if any of that helps

Jon Friel
I'm a Friel, From Notts, what a good storey. I'd like to believe it all but it just seems quite vague. I am however a 'gallant man'.

deana friel
Hi jon, is notts short for nottingham? friel connection moved to nottingham in the 1950 or there abouts, i think some of them still live there

Chase O'Friel
That's really cool I'm stoked to be a O'Friel if any of you other friels out there wanna hear some uplifting music i play in a band called medicine for the people !check us out on you tube... Bless

M T Friel

My name is Friel, though no big deal, and that can’t be denied, as I stem from drink, no sober link on which I can confide. I'd like to speak as proud in name, as the Irish often do, yet, the only knowledge, that I have gained, came from a potent brew. I learned a lot from growing up in that Irish family, oh! How we partied through the years, every holiday a spree! Yet, when it comes to knowing them, they are all strangers to me. I am older now, and sober, it seems I passed the test, and though I love the holidays, on St Patricks' day, I simply rest. No matter how far I dig in my past, I come back to where I ‘ve been, and only hope that those stories, will be forgotten in the wind. I am certain there were Friels’ who were sober, strong and proud, but only knew the one’s who were drunk, shallow and loud. Now, I have one name, that I am proud of, and one heritage that is true, My first name is the best of all , and how I’d introduce myself to you. They can have all that blarney, and falsehoods, anger and pain, which made me sad. I prefer the prolific heart and soul, of a truly, strong Irish lad! "May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil know your dead!"

Brenodn C. O'Friel

I'm O'Friel


I'm a Friel that came from Illinois. My family are the Friel from Maytown. I just returned from my 1st trip to Ireland:) didn't make it to Donegal:( regrettably. Most Irish people I talked to knew that the surname was from Donegal:) Next time I will be sure to travel that way.

Melissa Friel Grossner

N.F., I believe we are related! My dad is a Friel and grew up in Ohio, IL. I am taking my first trip to Ireland in June and I can not wait! I don't believe I will get to travel to Donegal though. Melissa