Kiely is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "O' Cadhla". The Gaelic prefix "O" indicates "male descendant of", plus the byname "Cadhla" meaning graceful or beautiful; hence, "descendant(s) of the graceful one". This name is chiefly found in the Munster counties of Waterford, Limerick and Cork. The variant spelling Keeley appears in Counties Galway and Wicklow, and Kealy is a County Kilkenny variant. The forms O' Quelly and Que(a)lly, recorded in Counties Clare and Waterford, in Petty's census, dated 1659 are accepted by Dr.Lynce in his "Cambrensis Eversus" as further Anglicizations of O' Cadhla - "O Cadhla sive (otherwise) Quaelly". However, another Gaelic name O' Caollaidhe, containing the element "caol" meaning "slender", also gives rise to the Anglicized forms Queally and Queeley, which leads to confusion in tracing the exact source. Patrick O' Kiely from Ring, County Kerry who wrote his name O' Cadhla in Irish was a notable early 20th Century worker in the Gaelic revival. The Coat of Arms most associated with the name depicts a chevron between three black mullets on a silver shield. In heraldry, the chevron represents "the roof-tree of a house", and was often granted in arms as a reward to those who had build churches or fortresses, or who had accomplished some work of Faithful Service. The mullet or star denoted Honour and Achievement in the service of the state in ancient times. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of O' Cadhla, also called O' Kealy, of lar-Connaught, which was dated circa 1170 - Chieftain of Connemara, County Galway, during the reign of Rory O' Connor, High King of Ireland, 1166 - 1198. 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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