Recorded in a number of spellings including O' Connally, O' Connelly, O' Conley, Coneley, Connelly, Conneely, Connerly, Kennelly, Kinnealy, Quinnelly and others, this is a famous Irish surname. It is a form of the old Gaelic O' Conghaile, meaning the descendant of the Hound of Valour. The O' Conghailes were an ancient Connacht sept who with the passage of time, separated and dispersed into three main branches. The chief branch resided in County Meath and was one of the "Four Tribes of Tara". In former times the seat of the Irish High Kings was on the Hill of Tara. The second branch belonged to the ancient Kingdom of Oriel embracing the modern County Monaghan, and this territory was ruled by the O' Connollys, the McMahons and the McKennas up to the end of the 12th Century. The Munster branch of the family established itself in West Cork and here the name was frequently rendered O' Coingheallaigh from the Gaelic Coingheallach meaning "faithful, reliable and diligent". Among the several hundred of the name who immigrated to America at the time of the Potato Famine was one, Margaret Connelly, who embarked from Liverpool on the ship "Rochester" bound for New York on May 8th 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Tirlogh O'Connola, Chief and Vice-Marshal to the clan MacMahon, and dated 1591, in the Fiants Records of County Monaghan. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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