Origins of the Maley name

Bob Maley's take:

During the course of my family research, the origin of the MALEY name was one of my first interests. Our family legend tells that we came from Ireland. Early in my research I found my  3rd great grandfather, Peter MALEY was born in Lancaster County and baptized in a German Church. I then conducted extensive research on the Meili (Swiss Mennonite) name which is pronounced MAY-LEE. After much searching I ruled that out. I found later that the township he lived in, Martic, had many Irish folks there.  The next several generations of MALEY's also associated with good Irish folks like KEEN and COLLINS.

I placed numerous requests via the web about the name MALEY and found that it was a common derivative of O'MALLEY

In the book "The Life and Times of Grace O'Malley" I found the following:

According to ancient genealogies of Ireland, the O'Malley clan was descended from the eldest son of the High King of Ireland, Brian Orbsen, king of Connaught, who was killed at the battle of Dam Chluain near Tuam, circa A.D. 388. In the Book of Rights (leabhar na gCeart), the O'Malleys are listed as being tributary kings to the provincial kings of Connaught. They were the hereditary lords of the region called Umhalls ( umall, territory) which was latinised as Umallia and later anglicized as the Owels, a territory which compromised the baronies of Murrisk and Burrishoole. The barony of Murrisk was called Umhall Uachtarach of Upper Owel and included the islands of Clare, Inishturk, Caher, Inishbofin, Inishark and the smaller islands in the neighborhood, including a multitude in Clew Bay. The barony of Burrishoole was called Umhall Iochtarach or Lower Owel and originally included Achill. The two baronies were referred to as 'Umhall Ui Mhaille' (territory of the O'Malleys) or the Two Owels.

In the Annals of the Four Masters, the O'Malley name was mentioned as early as 1123, and many entries of O'Malley exploits are detailed.

I believe the evidence clearly indicates that our surname is one of the original Celtic/Irish surnames. While there were occasions that different O'Malleys hired Scot mercenaries from time to time, O'Malley is Irish through and through.

You can check this site out http://ireland.iol.ie/~domalley/index.htm for information about the O'Malley Clan Association. On that page I found the following " The O'Malley Name, over the centuries has changed for some families i.e. Malley, O'Maille, Meally, Mally, Melia, Malee, etc. All are welcome to join the Clan Association and attend at our Annual Rally. "

Copyright (C) 1998, All rights reserved, Robert L. Maley. Copying or use of the previous text strictly forbidden without the author's permission.


Information from a book on Irish Surnames

O'Malley (O'Maille - Melia) The O'Malleys are a very old Mayo family whose name is said to derive fm the Celtic word for chief (maglios). For many centuries they were chieftains of the baronies of Burrishoole & Murrisk, where the sea was their chief occupation. One of the most remarkable women in Irish history, Grace O'Malley, known as Granuaile, was the daughter of the O'Malley chieftain Owen, As a mere 15 year old she was m. to an O'Flaherty. When he was killed in battle she m. a Burke. She frequently contended with the marauding English, both by land & by the sea from which she got her living. She was captured several times & was rescued from the gallows. In her old age, as a princess & equal, she visited Queen Elizabeth in London. With the breakdown of the ancient chieftaincies the O'Malleys disappeared abroad, Charles O'Malley & his five brothers gave their lives to a diversity of armies. It was said, none of his family were ever known to follow any trade or profession but arms, earning no fortune to replace what had been taken from them. The O'Malleys produced many high churchmen & one unorthodox priest, Thaddeus O'Malley, who was returned from America because of his progressive religious & political views. Ernest O'Malley, a veteran of the Civil War, wrote a vivid autobiography entitled "On Another Man's Wound". Melia is sometimes found as a variant of O'Malley.


Origin as given in the Junkin genealogy of Lawrence Maley

Authentic information is not available, but the name, Mealey or Maley, is undoubtedly Scottish origin (?). Possibly should be termed a family of Scot-Irish extraction. It has long lost any resemblance of such classification and is now predominately American. The original Scot-Irish settlers rendered yeoman's service in the early settlement of the American colonies and in their defense. This was particularly true in the Province of Pennsylvania.

In the family Bible of William Mealey, the eldest son of Lawrence, the emigrant, we find the name written O'Mealey, Mealey, Mealy and Maley. In Warren County IL in 1850 at a family gathering it was decided to drop the silent letter "e" in the name, thus changing the spelling to Maley. This spelling now seems to predominate, although there are some family lines who continue the original spelling. Another group of descendants in Western Pennsylvania had the same thought in changing the spelling of the name only it was the last letter "e" that was omitted. They continue to spell the name, Mealy.

In America: Lorans, Levans, Laurance, Lawrence O'Mealey, Mealey, Malay or Maley of Scot-Irish ancestry was born about 1756 probably in North Ireland (according to family legend, at Raphoe County, Denegal): Died in 1808 in Wood County, Virginia (now near Harrisville, Ritchie County, West Virginia; married (Margaret) Agnes Harper (daughter of a wealthy farmer residing west of Philadelphia, PA). Date and place of birth not found; death not recorded except it occurred at the farm home one mile east of Harrisville in what is now Ritchie County, West Virginia. They were parents of eight (8) children. Both are buried in the Pioneer Cemetery one mile east of Harrisville. Many family legends have prompted this effort to penetrate the dim and distant past insofar as the antecedents of this remarkable family are concerned. The lapse of time since the formation and federation under British rule of the original Thirteen Colonies along the Atlantic Seaboard has been fraught with many grave dangers and called for many sacrifices from these emigrants and their descendants.

It was necessary to unite, for protection of the Provinces, against the Indians closely allied with the French settlements to the North. It is difficult for us presently to comprehend the settlement along the Atlantic Coast at the beginning of the 18th Century. These brave and hardy colonists were engaged in a life and death struggle not only with the elements but with bordering tribes of hostile Indians to maintain a strip of approximately fifty miles in width from southern Maine to the Carolinas.

Upon this scene came the German Colonists from the Palatinate. From 1710 to 1730 many thousands arrived at the invitation of William Penn to seek homes in his proprietary colony named in his honor and known as the Province of Pennsylvania. Famine, war and pestilence in Ireland by 1840 started many Irish families of Scottish descent known as the Scot-Irish to seek asylum in the New World. They too landed in Pennsylvania and immediately pushed westward. The German Colonists soon formed the three original counties: Bucks, Pennsylvania and Chester in the Province. After their arrival, the Scot-Irish emigrants organized the counties of York, Cumberland, Northampton, Northumberland and Westmoreland.

The arrival of the first Mealey (Maley) family has not been chronicled due largely to the fact no registration was required, no oath of allegiance was necessary as they were already citizens of the British Empire. Many of the associate families such as the Harpers, Blaines, Junkins, Thompsons (Thomsons or Tomsons) were of this period.

Other associate families appearing in this record arrived from England and settled much earlier in New England. Among these were the Howes, Halls, Harris's Frisbies.

The first record of (Lawrence, Lorans) (O'Malay, Mealey or Maley) was his enlistment in Colonial Army in the war for Independence. Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Volume II, pp 223, 226: "Lawrence Mealey, Raphe, County Donegal, Ireland: enlisted from Hopewell, February 21, 1776, private in (Captain) David Griers' Company raised in York County (Pennsylvania) January and February 1776. Rifleman. Age: 20: Taken prisoner June 8, 1776: Paroled August 9, 1776." Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Volume VI, page 347: "Militia of Cumberland County. Roll of Third Company of the 5th Battalion of Cumberland Militia Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Mitchell, August 28, 1780 Captain David Marshall: 4th Class Lorans Mealey." Ibid., page 349: "Role of 3rd Company of the Fifth Battalion of Cumberland County Militia, December 1780: Levans Mealey."

A letter from General Thomas Maley Harris of Harrisville, VA says: "He was born in the then Wood County, VA (now WV) June 17, 1813 within 600 yards from where he writes. His grandfather, Lawrence Mealey, was from Ireland and moved from Rockbridge County, VA to this place with his wife and eight children in 1803. They came on horses and on foot, bringing with them their cattle, sheep, etc., and settled within a mile of the present site of Harrisville. His nearest neighbor being at the present site of Pennsboro eight miles distant. As other settlers came, it took the name of 'Mealey's Settlement,' which in 1823 occupied about 9 square miles and had twenty families. Most of these were from Harrison County, VA. The first school was taught about 1818 by Thomas Mealey." Reference: Transallegheny Historical Magazine, Vol. I, p. 142, 1901.

The Junkins information is Copyright (C) 1998, All rights reserved, Katrina Maley. Copying or use of the previous text strictly forbidden without the author's permission.


If you have additional information or wish to add to or correct any of the above, please e-mail Robert L. Maley


Back Next

Copyright 1998-2005, All rights reserverd, Robert L. Maley, Use or copying of these pages strictly forbidden without express written consent  
Last modified: May 20, 2005