Kennelly Family DNA

Welcome to the first Family page on Irish DNA Net. As a Kanalley, there wouldn’t be a more appropriate family to start with than my own.

I’m excited about these pages. The format will be a running blog of discoveries based on DNA for each family. No living individuals will be named, but families will be discussed. My hope is descendants will find these pages and seek to collaborate. Please leave a comment at the bottom if you have info you’d like to share or contact me directly.

So let’s begin: the Kennelly family and what the DNA results have shown.

Surname Overview & Geography

The Kennelly surname is most common in southwest Ireland, specifically in the counties of Kerry, Limerick & Cork in Munster province.

Kennelly is believed to come from the Gaelic O’Cinnfhaolaidh, which originates from ‘ceann’ meaning ‘head’ and ‘faol’ meaning ‘wolf.’

Surname variations include: Kanaley, Kanalley, Kenally, Kenealy, Kenneally, Kenneely, Kineally, Kinealy, Kinnelly, Coneely & Conneely.

For geographic perspective, here is a map of Kennelly births in Ireland between 1864-1890. Districts colored green had at least 30 births during this span. The darker the green, the more births. Listowel led the way (279), followed by Cork (162) & Glin (100).

Target Ancestor

Thomas Kennelly is my immigrant ancestor. Depending on the record, Thomas was born between 1811 and 1825. My best guess: he was born around 1820.

He came to Canada in 1849 as a result of the Great Famine. His obituary states he first settled in Asphodel Township before moving on to Cobourg, Northumberland Co., Ontario. It says he was a “native of County Limerick.”

Thomas worked for the Grand Trunk Railroad and he was a farm laborer. The 1851 Canadian census has a “Thomas Kenealy” in Asphodel Township, born in Ireland, age unknown and listed a widow, living with the Richard Walsh family [a Peter Robinson settler, born 1792 in Co. Cork]. It’s not certain this is my Thomas, but it seems likely. The fact he is a widow suggests he may have had a first wife die in Ireland.

On the 26th of November 1852, “Thomas Kenneely” marries Rose Flynn at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Cobourg. James Connell & Mrs. Connell are listed as witnesses.

Thomas and Rose had nine children – in order: John, Michael, Ann, Mary, Isabella, Thomas, Ellen, James, and Martin. James is my direct ancestor.

Many descendants of Thomas have DNA tested through multiple children. Through phasing, approximately 39% of Thomas’ autosomal DNA has been identified to date.

Known Kin

Before DNA testing, besides his wife and children, no close or immediate relatives of Thomas had been identified. His parents were unknown.


The first evidence for Thomas’ origin beyond “County Limerick” was found through Y-DNA testing, which passes only father to son.

I personally took this test and I was linked with three men with the Kennelly surname or a close variation, with one living in Ireland & two in the USA. All three have roots in western County Limerick, corresponding to the Glin & Newcastle districts in the map above.

Close Relatives per Autosomal DNA

Patrick Kennelly, born in 1858 in Co. Limerick and died in 1932 in Co. Limerick – DNA-linked to Thomas who went to Canada

One Kennelly family in western Co. Limerick has been identified via autosomal DNA as very closely related to Thomas. Due to the strength of the DNA links (many segments shared), it is likely Thomas had a brother, first cousin or uncle named Cornelius Kennelly, who married Margaret Nestor on the 27th of November 1834 in Askeaton Parish, County Limerick.

Cornelius Kennelly and Margaret Nestor had six children: Margaret, Michael, Peter, John, Thomas and Patrick (pictured). Margaret Kennelly married Maurice Langan and settled in Nebraska, USA. We are matching many of Margaret and Maurice’s descendants.

The baptism record for Cornelius and Margaret’s son John Kennelly, recorded at Shanagolden Parish in 1844, is especially interesting because his godfather was a Thomas Kennelly. This could be my Thomas.

The amount of DNA that Thomas descendants share with Cornelius descendants would be consistent with them being brothers. But for now, for several reasons, it is my working theory and hypothesis that Thomas & Cornelius were 1st cousins (or nephew & uncle).

I believe Thomas’ father was a John Kennelly & Cornelius’ father was a Michael Kennelly. There is good evidence for this:

  • Thomas’ first son was John & Cornelius’ first son was Michael; that would follow the traditional Irish naming pattern to name a first son after the paternal grandfather
  • A John Kennelly witnessed the marriage of Cornelius Kennelly & Margaret Nestor – this may be Thomas’ father
  • A Michael Kennelly is in Moig, Askeaton Parish in 1827, per the Tithe Applotment Books – this may be Cornelius’ father
  • There are two John Kennellys not far away in Kilfergus (Glin) Parish, one in Ballyguiltenane Upper and the other in Kinard, per the Tithe Applotment Books of 1823-1837
  • Other autosomal DNA evidence supports Glin Parish as the likely parish of origin for Thomas; we have DNA-connected kin, surnames Woods/Quille & Windle/Wingle, in Ballyguiltenane, Glin Parish as late as 1888; and we are related to the Ryan family of Glin Parish
  • DNA evidence suggests Thomas’ mother was very likely a Mulvihill, but the Cornelius descendants do not link to Mulvihill in the same way as Thomas descendants, lending support to a 1st cousin or uncle/nephew relationship instead of brothers

So about Mulvihill

Thomas had many close relatives with the surname Mulvihill based on autosomal DNA links. These Mulvihills lived near the Co. Kerry & Co. Limerick border. One branch went to Canada like my Thomas, one branch went to the Midwest US, and others stayed in Ireland or the UK; all are DNA-connected. Based on correspondence with several of these Mulvihill-descended DNA cousins, this family lived in the townland of Shronowen, Listowel Parish, Co. Kerry in the mid-1700s. Over time, branches of the family moved to nearby parishes and at least one branch ended up in Glin Parish, Co. Limerick around the turn of the century.

A separate page will be created later focused entirely on the Mulvihill family and those DNA links. But to get back to the Kennellys, a rare record appeared to bring all the pieces together.

The 1851 census did not survive. But some 1851 census extracts have survived. One such transcription identifies a John Kennelly, “son of John Kennelly & Mary Mulvihill,” living with a Daniel Kennelly in North Clash, Athea Parish, which neighbors Glin Parish. Further research shows that Daniel Kennelly was born about 1800, married Mary Connors, and he died in Athea Parish in 1867. It is likely that Daniel was a brother of John Kennelly who married Mary Mulvihill, and perhaps they had passed away by 1851 (Great Famine?) so the younger John was living with his uncle.

I find it likely my Thomas Kennelly was also a son of this John Kennelly & Mary Mulvihill. They had passed away, and he had left for Canada (in 1849). It was mentioned earlier my Thomas’ first son was John & his second daughter was Mary. This fits the Irish naming pattern too: first son after paternal grandfather, second daughter after paternal grandmother.

The fact that we have this rare traditional record, along the Athea Parish/Glin Parish border, with given names that make sense, and the Mulvihill surname coupled with the Mulvihill DNA matches, the pieces all seem to add up. Not to mention the time frame fits too – no marriage record can be found for John Kennelly & Mary Mulvihill, and no baptisms can be found for any children, supporting the fact they married and had children before records began (when my Thomas would have been born also).

The two John Kennellys in Glin Parish in the Tithe Applotment Books are especially interesting (one is probably this John who married Mary Mulvihill), and even more interesting, there are several Mulvihills in Glin Parish (also called Kilfergus Parish) in the Tithe books, including a Patrick Mulvihill in Kinard, a Michael Mulvihill in Tullyleague (near Ballyguiltenane), a John Mulvihill in Ballygoghlan and a Timothy Mulvihill in Cahara. A Daniel Kennelly is listed next to Timothy Mulvihill in Cahara, Glin Parish – since these Tithe records of the 1820s/1830s predate the 1851 census extract, it could be the same Daniel Kennelly who ends up in Athea Parish in 1851.

Unless new evidence arises to the contrary, it seems we can name Thomas’ parents as John Kennelly & Mary Mulvihill with high confidence. Mary likely came to Glin parish as a young girl or teenager from just over the border in County Kerry.

There is another ‘Cornelius Kennelly’ family DNA-linked to Thomas.

This branch involves a Cornelius Kennelly born on July 27, 1899 in Limerick, Co. Limerick to Cornelius Kennelly & Delia Kenerk. The elder Cornelius Kennelly was born in Nov. 1865 in Askeaton Parish to Patrick Kennelly & Anne Hart. Patrick was the son of a Michael Kennelly, born about 1805. This Michael is likely a brother to Cornelius who married Margaret Nestor. To tie it all together, they should be nephews or younger brothers to John Kennelly who married Mary Mulvihill and lived in Glin Parish.

And the Kennelly family of Athea Parish is matching on autosomal DNA, fairly closely on multiple segments (20 cM-45 cM each), providing more support for the Glin/Athea border links described above. Descendants of a Patrick Kennelly & Ellen Mullane of Athea Parish are matching Thomas descendants. Patrick was born about 1805, making him a possible sibling, nephew or cousin to John Kennelly who married Mary Mulvihill. In addition, a descendant of Michael Kennelly born about 1828 in Athea Parish and his wife Bridget Mahony is matching us closely on multiple segments, including one clear Mulvihill segment and one Kennelly segment – *as well as* matching the Cornelius Kennelly of Askeaton descendants on other segments. That all seems to add up to this Michael Kennelly of Athea Parish is probably a brother of our Thomas, another son of John Kennelly and Mary Mulvihill.

There are more distant links to a Martin Kennelly family of Shanagolden Parish (this neighbors Glin Parish); the Sullivan family of Knockpatrick, Shanagolden Parish; the O’Connell family of Askeaton Parish; and the Enright family of the Kerry/Limerick border. Clear connections but difficult to sort out due to the lack of records for that earlier time period.

Other Kennelly Families

The above Kennellys are most closely linked to Thomas via DNA. There are others who are more distantly connected.

Among the distant kin are pretty clear links, phased to Thomas by autosomal DNA, to Kennellys of Co. Kerry, just over the border from Glin and Athea, Co. Limerick. The surname is numerous in Northern Kerry, and links have been found to Kennellys in Tarbert, Newtown Sandes (Moyvane), and Listowel Parish. Some of the Ballylongford Parish Kennellys are also likely related, but per one Ballylongford Kennelly, there are at least 3 or 4 Kennelly families there that are “unrelated.” For what it is worth, my Y-DNA match from Ireland says the Kerry Kennellys are absolutely kin to the Limerick Kennellys. But this relationship may go back many centuries.

I will add more information here on the Kennellys as I find new DNA evidence.

Are you connected to another Kennelly family that is not mentioned here? Leave a comment or email me if you would like them to be included here, along with geographical info or any significant DNA findings.

Did you know I wrote a book based on my Kanalley / Kennelly family? It’s true. The story focuses on James Kanalley, son of Thomas Kennelly, his wife Mary Wallace, and the impact World War I had on the family. You can find it here:

(The above link is an affiliate link, which means we may receive a small commission from your purchase at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting Irish DNA Net!)


4 comments on “Kennelly Family DNA”
  1. Michaela says:

    My Kenealy ancestor was Margaret born in 1843. She married in May 1863 in Sharahan, Tipperary. Her husband was George Gray..a farrier in the Hussars. She had 1 child, also George in 1864. She died in Clogheen in 1868. At the time of her death she was a seamstress and died of irritant poisoning. I believe her father was James Kenealey and she had a brother James born in 1840.

    Griffith’s valuation (1853) has a James Kennelly in Clogheen Market- the lessor being James Hennessy. A tithe appointment book in 1835 has a James Kenealy resident in Shanrahan.


    1. Michaela, thanks for sharing. Obviously with Kanalley being my surname, I have done quite a bit of research on the Kennelly family. I have wondered if the Co Tipperary/Co Cork Kennellys may be distant kin of the Limerick/Kerry Kennellys. Not sure yet. My Thomas settled in Ontario in 1849, but one group of Kennellys came from Kilbeheny, Co Limerick to Ontario in 1825. If you look at a map, this is very close to Clogheen Market and that Tipperary/Cork border area.


  2. Michaela says:

    Indeed they could Craig, I haven’t been able to discover yet who Margaret’s mother is which make help tracking things further back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good luck! Feel free to loop back if you make further discoveries on your Kenealy/Kennelly branch.


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