The surname of O'KELLS was derived from the Old English word 'kel' the dweller near a spring. Local names usually denote where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. The name was from the Old Norman KEL, and was brought into England and Ireland in the wake of the Norman Conquest of 1066. The surname in Ireland is found mainly in Ulster, spelt as Kells in County Cavan and Monaghan and as KELL in Antrim. Ireland is one of the earliest sources of the development of patronymic names in northern Europe. Irish Clan or bynames can be traced back to the 4th century B.C. and Mac (son of) and O (grandson or ancestor of) evolved from this base, the original literal meaning of which has been lost due to the absence of written records and linguistic ambivalences which subtly but inexorably became adopted through usage. Genealogists and lexographers accept that the patronymic base does not refer to a location, quite the contrary. The use of the prefix 'Bally' (town of) attaching to the base name, identifying the location. The base root was also adopted by people residing in the demographic area without a common ancestor. These groups called 'Septs' were specially prevalent in Ireland. The first Normans arrived in Ireland in the 12th and 13th centuries to form an alliance with the King of Leinster, against his enemies, merging into the cultural developments. Under Elizabeth 1 in the 16th century, settlers from England established themselves around Dublin, then under English control and Presbyterian Scots emigrated to Ulster, introducing English and Scottish roots. Early records of the name mention Ansfredus Isabella Kelle, 1176, Hampshire. Reginaldus filius Chelle was documented in the year 1219 in the County of Lancashire. Chel filius Mabillae, 1250 County Cumberland. Willelmus atte Keld of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Lancelot Kell married Janes Wilsby at St, Dionis Backchurch, London in 1739. There is a place Kells in Scotland, from which the name may have been derived, and John Kells of Wigtune appears to be the first on record in Scotland in the year 1513. Arthur Kelles was documented in Glencarvie in 1682.
The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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