A Review and Analysis of the Irish Origenes Kiely Case Study:

The Irish Origenes Kiely study concludes that the surname came to Ireland with the Norman conquest, and that its historic roots are to be found in England. This conclusion is based on the fact that surname matches at the 37 and 25 marker DNA levels Davis, Doughty, Davenport and Franklin are English and concentrate in the Midlands near Leamington Spa. Evidence in the form of surname distributions, along with place names and street names relating to the matching surnames is advanced in support of its conclusion.

Several factors cast doubt on this conclusion. First, noted Irish surname scholar Edward Maclysaght makes no mention of Norman origins in  The Surnames of Ireland. In More Irish Families, he discusses at length the origin of the related variants Kiely, Keily, Keely, Kealy and O Quealy. One is left with the impression that these variants are related to ancient Irish septs.

Second, the traditional approach employed in an Origenes study to identify a genetic homeland is to compare the distributions of: 1) farmers of the primary surname, with the farmer of matching surnames, 2) place name evidence, and occasionally 3) historical records. The Kiely report deviates from the approach in one critical respect. There is no evidence of the Kiely surname in the Midlands. The Origenes conclusion is reached  strictly on the basis of the four matching surnames being English and overlapping in the midlands of England independent of the Keily surname. This shortcoming is dismissed with the observation that:

It may well be that the Kiely surname did arise in England near Royal Leamington Spa but that all of the Kiely’s departed for Ireland with the Normans and settled in the southwest".

Thus the English origins hypothesis is not supported with evidence but is simply based on an assumption.

If the Kiely surname is not English, what is the alternative? A logical hypothesis would be the surname is Irish. In order for this to be true we first need to explain how the English surname matches came into existence in a way that does not depend on the Kielys being from England.

There is a total of 40 surname matches at the 37 and 25 marker levels (4, 36) and one match at the 67 marker level. The 64/67 Kent match can reasonably be assumed to have taken place within an undetermined historical time frame. A distribution map of the two surnames and a related group of farmers creates a cluster (as the report indicates) at the confluence of the borders of counties Cork, Tipperary and Limerick. This region, is in all probability, the historic homeland of the Keily surname in Ireland.

What of the other surname matches? Surprisingly, of the 40 matches at the 37 and 25 marker levels, 34 can be found in the 1901 Irish census. None appear to be located near the Kiely/Kent cluster. Of the 34 Irish matches 28 can be found in Ulster

The Ulster factor might be the answer to the surname matches. Beginning in 1710 large numbers of Ulster Scots began a century-long migration to America. We might hypothesize that non-paternity events in Colonial America account for the English surname matches. Two surname matches in particular suggest a Colonial American connection, specifically the surnames Rickenbacker and Lantz.

The Scots-Irish and Germans began arriving in Colonial America in the early 18th century with the focus of this early migration being Pennsylvania. A search of the 1790 federal US census found 3 Lantzes in Maryland, and three in Pennsylvania. A search for Rickenbacker revealed 4 Rickinbackers in Orangeburg County, South Carolina. In the late 18th century South Carolina was the terminus of the Great Wagon Road which connected Pennsylvania and South Carolina. It was the route followed by German and Scotch-Irish settlers as they penetrated the American frontier.

More intriguing was the discovery of 53 individuals with Kiely-like spelling variants. Of these, 5 were in South Carolina, with an Ursillah Kailey in Orangeburg County. In subsequent censuses the more familiar Kiely spelling is adopted. But what of the other Kiely surname matches?

Of the 28 Ulster surname matches, 27 were found in the United States 1790 Census, and of these 26 are found in South Carolina.  

We might expect high frequency Ulster matches like Smith (11,230), Taylor (6,205), Jones (1,817) and Davis (1,242) to be represented in many Colonial American counties. However it is the presence of rare surname matches that is most remarkable. Ten of the matching surnames have a United States population frequency of less than 250 and yet are found in South Carolina in close proximity to the Kiely surname.

In conclusion the probability of 26 of 40 surname matches to the Kiely surname localizing in Colonial South Carolina by chance alone is remote in the extreme. It is highly likely that the matches resulted from non-paternal events in Colonial America and not in the midlands of England as is suggested by the report.