Welcome to the Curley Surname Research Project!
This website details the histories of the various Curley lineages from Ireland, England, and Scotland. This is also the home of the Curley surname DNA Research Project affiliated with Family Tree DNA, a genealogical DNA testing service designed to help you discover your family roots.
All fellow Curleys are welcome to participate in this research project, regardless of your family's location of origin, ethnicity, nationality, or name spelling. The Curley name has morphed into a variety of forms over the ages, so researchers of any phonetically similar name are encouraged to participate, including, but not limited to, Curley, Curly, Curli, Curle, Cearley, Carley, Carly, Kerley, Kerlie, Kerly, Kirrily, Keriley, Curlieu, Curlew, Curlewe, Corlieu, Corlew, Corley, Curlin, etc., and any of these variations with the Mac or O' prefix attached.
Curley Family Groups
All known Curley lineages originated in Western Europe. There are at least three major distinguishable Curley family groups that can be identified in early records. One group is from Ireland, one from Scotland, and one from England. Detailed histories for each of these families may be viewed in their separate tabs of the website menu. A brief summary of each major family group is presented here.
Records of the Irish Curleys can be found as early as the 1400's. The progenitor of the surname appears to be MacOirgíallaigh of the Oirgíalla kingdom, with the modern Irish spelling of MacOirealla. Early English documents record the surname as "MicKurylly", with many spelling variations on this basic form. The "Curly" spelling first appeared in the 1600's, gaining dominance over other variations in the 1700's. By the time of Griffith's Valuation in 1868, most of the family had adopted the modern spelling of "Curley".
There are many hypotheses regarding the origin of the name itself, most of which are speculative with no supporting documentation. However there is substantial evidence that the name and lineage originated from the kingdom of Oirgíalla (having a modern English phonetic translation of Oirealla) in the area of counties Louth and Monaghan, with the first Curleys using the Gaelic name MacOirgíallaigh which has been rendered into the modern spelling of MacOirealla. DNA testing reveals an intact, old lineage of Curleys spread throughout Ireland, probably descending from the original MacOirealla progenitor, with 14th-15th century genetic ties to the territories of Oirgíalla and east Breifne.
England boasts a branch of Curleys from Normandy. This branch appeared in England not long after the initial Norman invasion of 1066. The family was in a position of power, lording over a sizable expanse by grant from the king. The original name in Normandy was Curlibuef, first appearing in 1103 AD in Lower Normandy in association with the Abbey of Troarn. After the family settled in England the name became Anglicized and is recorded in a myriad of forms from early on. As a prominent family of power, family members appear numerous times in governmental records of court hearings, land deeds, and such. The name is variously recorded as Curlieu, Curleio, Curlew, Curlewe, Curlu, Curly, Curley, Curli, Curlye, and Curle, always with the Norman "de" preceeding the surname. Several diverse modern names may descend from this single Norman family, including a French family going by the name Corlew or Corlieu.
This Curlieus' main property in England was in Warwickshire County, centered in the village and manor house of Budbrooke. The family also possessed the estate of Carleton Curlieu in adjacent Leicester County, which took its name from the family.
It cannot be entirely ruled out that some of the Irish, English, and Scottish Curleys may share a common origin. But to date there is nothing in the available data, including historical documentation and genetic testing, to indicate that these families are related to each other in any way other than name. Genetic tests of Curleys representing each group so far appear to indicate distinct lineages. Historical documents reveal that each group had distinctly different names in their earliest recorded history. It is seemingly only through coincidence that over the ages, through gradual transformations, the names of these various lineages have converged into similar modern names.
A Guide to Surname Evolution
Generally, when studying the history of a surname, spelling should be considered irrelevant. Literacy was not widespread until within the past century or two. So name spelling will often vary dramatically from one record to the next. Indeed, in medieval records one will often find dramatically different name spellings for the same individual within the same document, and even at times within the same paragraph. Prior to the 18th century, there really was no such thing as a correct or incorrect name spelling. As such, in early records Curly, Curley, and Kerly, for example, should be considered the same name with different spellings.
While name spelling is fluid, name phonetics, on the other hand, remain more or less consistent, with only minor variations occurring gradually over time, and occasional more dramatic changes occurring when a name crosses cultures from one language to another. As English government took hold of Ireland, many Gaelic names became Anglicized. For example, the English name "M'Curly" is a minor phonetic variation of the Gaelic version "MacOirgíallaigh". Additionally, the Gaelic alphabet has no letter "K". The hard K sound is only ever represented by a C. So an English C or K should both be considered equivalent to a Gaelic C. Similar name evolutions took place when Europeans migrated to America and when the Normans invaded England. Cearley is an Americanized version of Kerley, the change probably attributable to the influence of local accents. And the English Curly derives from the Norman Curlibuef or Curlieu.
Family names first began to be used in Ireland around the 10th century, mostly among the noble class. The arrival of the Normans in the 11th century prompted a more widespread adoption of surnames throughout Britain and Ireland, as centralized government regulation, taxation, and formalized legal systems made it necessary to keep track of property ownership and familial inheritance. William the Conqueror, after his successful invasion of England, ordered a survey of all his captured lands. This survey, known as the Domesday Book, shows that surnames were beginning to take root at the time the survey was taken in 1085. Starting with nobility, surname usage gradually spread to include the landed gentry, and eventually mainstream society. By 1100, a fair number of families in Britain and Ireland used inherited surnames. But surnames continued to develop well beyond this time period, and it is not until around 1500 that inherited surnames can be considered to be mostly fixed. So the progenitors of the Curley surname can be assumed to have lived probably between 900 and 1500 AD, most likely toward the end of this range for most lineages.
Origin and History of the Curley Name
Various sources claim a wide variety of origins for the Curley surname, but these claims are all speculative, based almost entirely on vague phonetic similarities, and none of these claims are verifiable in documented sources. The historical documentation and DNA evidence indicate that the Curley surname developed independently on several occasions, so no single theory can possibly explain all the multiple diverse origins of this name.
In the effort to discover the name origin, the first step is to consider the earliest documented records of each branch. The Irish Curleys have MicKurylly, M'Kirilie and M'Kerryle as the earliest traceable name forms. England has a family that's Norman in origin, with the earliest known spelling of Curlibuef. The Scottish Kerlie family claims descent from the ancient Irish royal family of Cairill, which is also connected with the modern surname of Carol or Carrolly. It is possible that the modern Scottish McCurley and the English Kerley lineages derive from this same Cairill lineage or the English Curlibuef family.
The entire collection of documentation reveals the origin of the Irish Curley name to be MacOirgíallaigh, sometimes spelled MacOirealla, as summarized in the illustration below:
But before we get into the details of this etymology, there is a large amount of spurious published misinformation that must first be addressed.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names, the Irish townland of Ballymacurly derives from the Gaelic "Baile Mhic Thorlaigh". Thorlaigh can safely be assumed to be the modernized spelling of Thoirdealbhaigh. Woulfe's book of "Irish Names and Surnames", published in 1921, appears to be the origin of the claim that Curley is equivalent to Thorlaigh, stating that the Gaelic MacThoirdealbhaigh is the origin of MacCorley, MacKerley, MacKerlie, MacGorley, Corley, Gorley, Curley, Kerley, Kerly, and Kirley, and similarly stating that MacToirdealbhaigh is the source of Torley, Turley, Terrence, and Terry. MacLysaght perpetuates the claim in his "Surnames of Ireland". Various other sources claim an assortment of variations on this same basic Gaelic form. Some sources elaborate on this hypothesis, observing that MacThoirdealbhaigh is phonetically similar to MacHurly or MacUrly and theorizing that by dropping the Mac prefix from MacHurly, but leaving behind the "c" from Mac, one would end up with Curly.
Phonetically, the hypothesis of a transformation from MacThoirdealbhaigh to M'Curley is not unreasonable. But the startling truth is that, in spite of Woulfe's claim, a thorough exploration of historic documentation reveals not a shred of evidence that such a phonetic transformation ever actually occurred. When I first set out on my research of the Curley name origin, my intent was simply to follow the conventional references to their original source documents, fully expecting the MacThoirdealbhaigh claim to be supported by the documentation. But the outcome of the research was exactly the opposite. The documentation trail for MacThoirdealbhaigh dead ends abruptly at Woulfe's book of "Irish Names and Surnames" of 1921. All later sources which associate Thoirdealbhaigh with Curley can be traced back to Woulfe's book. But prior to Woulfe's 1921 publication, older documentation sources can be found which not only fail to support Woulfe's claim, but often contradict it.
There have been many notable individuals named Toirdealbhaigh throughout Ireland's history, and this name has, without exception, historically been translated to English as Turlough. These individuals include: Turlough, King of Thomond (625 AD), father of St. Flannan; Turlough O'Brien, grandson of King Brian Boru, King of Munster (1009-1086 AD) and effectively High King of Ireland; Turlough Mor O'Connor, grandson of Turlough O'Brien, king of Connacht (1088-1156 AD) and High King of Ireland (1106-1156 AD); Turlough O'Brien, King of Thomond (1276-1306 AD); Turlough Luineach O'Neill (1532-1595 AD) King of Tyrone; and Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738 AD), famous Irish harper, composer, and singer.
There was a clan Ui Toirdealbhaigh of the 11th century, to which king Brian Boru belonged. But usage of this clan name did not persist into later centuries. There is no continuity to connect this clan name to Toirdealbhaighs or Curleys of later centuries. Descendants of this clan are documented as using the family name O'Brien rather than Toirdealbhaigh. Genetic testing shows no connection between any of the Curley lineages and the O'Brien family name. The genetic lineage possessing the Y-DNA mutation "L226" is generally accepted as being associated with the Brian Boru lineage. But no Curleys belong to this group. If the Curley surname were related to the Ui Toirdealbhaigh clan, a genetic connection to this clan within the past two millenia would certainly be evident in the genetic test data. But no such connection exists.
Some Irish surnames are derived from well known clan names, but this is not always the case. In some cases, a single individual living during the time when surnames became permanently fixed can be the source of an entire surname progeny. Toirdealbhaigh was a very popular personal name throughout much of Ireland for hundreds of years, appearing in many different unrelated lineages, in the same way that William was popular in English culture. So one cannot assume that every Toirdealbhaigh belongs to the same Irish clan any more than one can assume that every William belongs to the same English family.
In manuscripts of the 1500's "Toirdealbhaigh" is always translated into English as "Turlough" or something very similar. As such a common name, even the foreign English settlers must have been fairly familiar with the name and its usual translation of Turlough. Yet the earliest English records have the Curley name as "M'Kurylly" or similar. It requires quite a stretch of the imagination to envision someone choosing to translate "MacToirdealbhaigh" as "M'Kurylly" or some such tortured mutilation, rather than as the standard accepted "MacTurlough".
In antique documents, one can easily find translated records equating Toirdealbhaigh to Turlough. But no such antique records exist which equate MacThoirdealbhaigh to M'Curley. For several hundred years, Curley is nowhere documented as an English translation of Thoirdealbhaigh. This supposed equivalence first appears in 1921, when we suddenly see Curley being equated to Thoirdealbhaigh in Woulfe's book, appearing out of nowhere with no previously documented connection between the two names.
In fact, the alternate version of the Toirdealbhaigh name with the softer aspirated "Th" sound, Thoirdealbhaigh, is not even found in records prior to Woulfe's use of the name. Phonetically, the hypothetical conversion from MacToirdealbhaigh to M'Curley doesn't work as is, but requires the original Gaelic name to have the softer lenited consonant "Th" rather than the hard "T". But this form of the name does not even exist in early Irish manuscripts. The correct form of the name is Toirdealbhaigh, with a hard "T". The absence of the name "Thoirdealbhaigh" from all documents prior to 1921 is remarkable, and one can't help but wonder whether Woulfe invented this version to force a better phonetic fit to M'Curley and supposedly related names.
Following Irish language convention, the initial consonant of the name is lenited when used in its possessive form. "Toirdealbhaigh" becomes "Thoirdealbhaigh" when used in the possessive form, similarly to the way the English language changes "Turlough" to "Turlough's" in the possessive form. So "Thoirdealbhaigh" appears rarely in early Irish manuscripts as the possessive form of "Toirdealbhaigh", as for example in the manuscript titled "Cathrèim Thoirdealbhaigh", which literally translates as "Toirdealbhaigh's Triumphs" or more naturally as "The Triumphs of Turlough". But elsewhere throughout such manuscripts, when not used in the possessive form, this name is written as "Toirdealbhaigh", not "Thoirdealbhaigh". And so the actual name in these cases is clearly "Toirdealbhaigh", not "Thoirdealbhaigh", and is properly translated to English phonetics as "Turlough". "Thoirdealbhaigh" with the lenited initial "Th" is not the name itself, just as "Turlough's" with an apostrophed "s" is not a name. And there is no conceivable way for the possessive form of the name to have been passed on as a patronym. Woulfe may have casually encountered the possessive form "Thoirdealbhaigh" at some time and mistakenly interpreted this as a different name than "Toirdealbhaigh".
Furthermore, the Thoirdealbhaigh hypothesis is doubtful in light of the actual documented history of the Curley name. If Thoirdealbhaigh or one of its variants is the origin of the Curley name, then we should expect older versions of the name to be more similar to Thoirdealbhaigh, with later variants diverging in a continuum of minor evolutions and branchings. But what the documentation reveals is in fact the opposite. For example, the earliest records from the 1500's list the Ballymacurly manor as Ballymickurylly. The ancient version of the name, MicKurylly, is phonetically further from MacThoirdealbhaigh than the modern version, MacCurly.
Consider the documented spelling progression and phonetics of Ballymacurly:
1587 Fiants: Ballymickurylly, Ballem'kirilie
1617 Fiants: Ballym'carilly
1659 Census: Ballemakcrally
1681 Books of Survey and Distribution: Ballymackerrilly
1749 Census of Elphin: Ballymackerily
1837 Tithe Applotment Books: Ballymacurly
Nowhere in this history is there any hint of a progression from an early version of MacThoirdealbhaigh to the modern version of M'Curly.
Woulfe's writing makes no mention of early documented spellings of the name, such as MicKurylly and M'Kirilie, suggesting that his claim is not based on a careful study of historical records. His claim appears to be based on speculation rather than sourced research. Furthermore, some of the surnames in Woulfe's list of equivalent names can be shown through documentation to be clearly distinct from the Curley surname in their origins, with diverging histories as one traces them backward in time. All of these distinct family names, with their various diverging documented histories, cannot possibly be derived from the same Gaelic lineage.
On the basis of these facts, one must conclude that Woulfe's assignment is based solely on vague phonetic similarities between these various names. His approach seems to be to assume that every Irish name has a Gaelic origin, and then assign a known Gaelic name which is phonetically similar to the modern name. This tendency is possibly motivated by an overzealous desire to re-Gaelicize the Irish language and culture, in opposition to the Anglicization imposed by England. Or perhaps it is just the outcome of a completionist mindset, a desire to have a Gaelic name origin assigned to every surname, even in those cases for which Woulfe did not definitively know the Gaelic origin. After all, we cannot really expect that Woulfe thoroughly researched every one of hundreds of surnames, arriving at the correct conclusion one hundred percent of the time. I've spent hundreds of hours researching the Curley name alone, and it is obvious that it would not be possible within a person's lifetime to research every Irish surname with similar thoroughness. In some cases, Woulfe must have taken a best guess, and some of those guesses are liable to have been incorrect.
Taking the Thoirdealbhaigh theory one step further, some sources claim that it is a Viking name derived from Thor. This is unlikely, firstly because Thor has more of a hard "T" sound compared to the softer Gaelic "Th" at the start of Thoirdealbhaigh. These words are phonetically not so alike as one might suppose based on their spellings. Secondly, surnames were generally not established until well after the time of the Viking settlements in Ireland. So the number of Viking names surviving as inherited surnames in Ireland is quite small. Thirdly, if traditional Irish legend has any merit, King Toirdealbhaigh, father of St. Flannan, lived in the 7th century, but the Viking invasions didn't start until the 9th century. So this name predates the arrival of the Vikings by a couple centuries. Finally, DNA testing indicates a Celtic origin for the Irish Curleys, not Nordic.
Following the Thoirdealbhaigh theory, some sources claim MacTurlough, MacTurlagh, or MacTerlagh as surnames having a common origin with Curley. But again, the hard "T" sound of these names is really not compatible with the Gaelic phonetics of MacCurly. While spelling of names may vary dramatically from one record to another, phonetics experience only smooth, gradual change. Even if evolving from a Gaelic to an English pronunciation, a confusion of the hard "T" sound versus "C" is too much of a stretch to accept without documented evidence that such a confusion actually occurred.
Certain phonetic modifications are observed to happen frequently when translating from Irish to English, with numerous examples that can be directly observed in documentation. Vowels are fairly ambiguous and have often been modified in translation. Certain Irish consonants are routinely converted, such as when an aspirated Irish "th" becomes an English "h". But the conversion of an Irish hard "t" to an English "c" or "k" is not found to occur. One would be hard pressed to find any examples of such a substitution occurring, as would be required to derive Curley from Toirdealbhaigh.
Some sources reference the 1639 Census as support for this theory, noting that MacTerlagh and MacTurlogh appear as surnames in County Limerick along with the Curlys, additionally claiming that the names Terry and Terrence are hence also related to Curly. But a cursory review of Irish records from this time period reveals that Terlagh was a very common name throughout ALL of Ireland during this time, including many locations with no connection to the Curlys. So the presence of a MacTerlagh near a Curly does not imply any relationship, more probably being just coincidence. In fact, the Curlys of Limerick have an independent documented history quite distinct from the Terlaghs'. Prior to the 1659 Census, this Curly family is documented with name spellings of M'Kyrrelly and Kerly, which are phonetically incompatible with the hypothesized Terlagh connection. Finally, DNA testing of Curleys reveals no connection to the surnames of Turlagh, Terrence, or any similar variation.
Other sources speculate that the name Curley originates from Charley or Carly. While this hypothesis is more reasonable from a phonetic standpoint, there is again no evidence in either DNA research or historical documentation to substantiate this as fact. There are some English Kerleys that migrated to America, after which the name morphed to Cearley. In a small number of isolated documents, this Cearley family was recorded as Carly. But earlier English records show no connection to Carly or Charley.
Some have supposed that Curley is an Anglicization of the Irish name Clercen, with "curl" being a literal translation of the Irish word "clerc". But the documentation history clearly shows that the initial Anglicization of the Curley surname was not "Curly". The "Curly" spelling only evolved in recent centuries from the earlier English form of M'Kerrilly. So the supposed connection to Clercen can be dismissed outright based on its obvious contradiction of the documentation record.
Since at least the early 20th century, there is a clear and continuous record of some native Irish Curleys using MacOirealla as the Irish version of their name. It's not clear from this alone whether this spelling derives from an early Gaelic version of the name, or is just an attempt at a modern phonetic translation from English Curley to Irish. But the entire collection of evidence supports MacOirealla as representing the true origin of the Curley name.
Strangely, Woulfe's first publication of "Irish Names and Surnames" in 1906 has MacOirealla as the origin of Curley. It is only in his later publication that Woulfe mistakenly groups Curley with other surnames as being derived from MacThoirdealbhaigh. It appears that Woulfe jumped to the conclusion that MacOirealla and MacThoirdealbhaigh are the same name. This was a reasonable guess at the time, but the full documentation record has now made it clear that these two names are not equivalent.
Oirealla is a modern English spelling for the ancient Irish kingdom name Airgíalla or Oirgíalla, as documented in publications of Keating's History of Ireland. Oirgíalla was a kingdom of the 6th to 16th centuries, located in modern counties of Louth, Monaghan, Armagh, Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Derry. The name continued to be applied to the region after the kingdom ended, eventually becoming the modern place name Oriel.
The Annals of Ulster record a MacOirgíallaigh for the year 1447, demonstrating that this was in a fact a family name in usage near the same time and place that the M'Curleys were first recorded in English documents. In the original manuscript this name is spelled identically to the kingdom name, suggesting that both the personal name and place name share the same Gaelic root word, as opposed to being two unrelated names having a chance phonetic similarity. The Gaelic name MacOirgíallaigh would reasonably be phonetically rendered into a modern spelling of MacOirealla. MacOirgíallaigh's sons are mentioned as having participated in a skirmish in Breifni. Notably, Breifni is adjacent to Oirgíalla, which supports the MacOirgíallaigh family name and the Oirgíalla kingdom name being related to each other.
In addition to the Annals of Ulster, the MacOirgíallaigh name also appears in Mag Uidhir genealogies written in the 14th century in Sligo. O'Oirealla makes an appearance in the "The Book of the MacSweeneys", written circa 1540 in Tirconnell. In all these early manuscripts, the Oirgíallaigh/Oirealla name is clearly distinct from Toirdealbhaigh, which has its own unique spelling and is applied to different individuals. So it is clear that MacOirgíallaigh, or MacOirealla, was a family name in its own right, in usage in the Ulster area from the 14th century up until at least the 16th century when the name first became Anglicized.
In O'Donovon's translation of the Annals of Ulster, MacOirgíallaigh is phonetically translated into English as MacErrilly. This translation bears a striking phonetic similarity to M'Kirilie, the version recorded in the 1587 Fiants for Ballymacurly. This proves that MacOirgíallaigh was considered by the Irish to be phonetically equivalent to M'Kirilie, the earliest English language form of the Curley family name. MacOirgíallaigh of the Annals and M'Kirilie of the Fiants are separated by a span of only 140 years. The natural conclusion is that one of the descendants of MacOirgíallaigh of the kingdom of Oirgíalla is probably connected to the same name recorded in 1587 at nearby Ballymacurly.
As support for the equivalence of MacOirgíallaigh, MacOirealla, and M'Curley, consider again the progression of the name's phonetics as recorded for Ballymacurly.
1587 Fiants: Ballymickurylly, Ballem'kirilie
1617 Fiants: Ballym'carilly
1659 Census: Ballemakcrally
1681 Books of Survey and Distribution: Ballymackerrilly
1749 Census of Elphin: Ballymackerily
1837 Tithe Applotment Books: Ballymacurly
Each of these phonetic translations into English may easily have originated from MacOirealla. The phonetics of MacOirealla are a much more natural fit than the phonetics of MacToirdealbhaigh. It is easy to see the natural progression from MacOirgíallaigh to MacOirealla to M'Kerrilly to M'Curly to Curly. And this progression is reflected in the documented history of the Ballymacurly place name.
Griffith's valuation shows a population of Curleys that corresponds well with the territory of Oirgíalla, with significant populations in counties Louth and Monaghan. There is an oral tradition that the Curleys were originally from the north and migrated southward after their lands were confiscated during the Plantations. The modern population distribution, split between Oriel in the north and counties Roscommon and Galway in the south, is consistent with this story. The northern population exhibits a greater diversity of name spellings, including Curley, Corley, Kirley, Kerley, and MacCurley. The greater diversity of name spellings is consistent with an older population having more time for different name variations to evolve and multiply.
DNA testing confirms a distant connection between the Curley population of the Oriel area and the Curley population of the Galway/Roscommon area. Families of these two areas share an ancestor estimated to have lived in the 15th century, consistent with the Annals of Ulster which place MacOirgíallaigh in the Oriel area in 1447 AD. The genetic connection between these populations is strong evidence that origin of the Curley surname is associated with the Oirgíalla kingdom, both geographically and linguistically.
While some modern Irish Curleys use MacOirealla for the Irish version of their name, others use MacThoirdealbhaigh. It is often reported by Irish Curleys that MacOirealla is the name that was passed down from their parents and grandparents, but MacThoirdealbhaigh is the version that was learned in school. It appears that MacOirealla is the genuine name. MacThoirdealbhaigh is a modern adoption which has appeared with the resurgence of Irish culture among Curleys whose Irish name spelling was not maintained through centuries of English cultural influence, being taught by school teachers using the erroneous Woulfe or MacLysaght books as a reference.
A handful of DNA tests exist for Irish lineages having the surname of Turley, which is more likely to be connected to the MacToirdealbhaigh name. These DNA tests show that the Turleys have no relationship with any of the Irish Curley groups.
An entirely different connection to the Curley name might be found in its phonetic similarity to the "curlew" bird. This connection seems far fetched at first glance, but there are several pieces of data that lend some credence to a connection. The curlew, a type of snipe found near bodies of water, is common to the region around Athlone where the Curley name first appeared. There's a Curley's Island not far from Athlone, at a ford of the river Shannon. The Gaelic name of this ford is “Snámh Dá Éan”, meaning “swim two birds”. So a possible connection is suggested between the curlew bird and the place name.
Genetic genealogy can be useful for determining the origins of a particular lineage, especially for those with roots in Ireland, for which genealogical records are generally sparse. Genetic testing can discover relationships between individuals and identify groups of people having a shared origin. Several such Curley groups have already been identified, including several genetically distinct Irish Curley groups, the McCurleys of Ulster, and the English Kerleys. If you do not know the origins of your lineage, DNA testing may help identify from which of these groups your family descends.
For more information on what genetic genealogy is all about and how it may help you discover your family history, see THIS PAGE.
DNA testing is done through Family Tree DNA, which has a surname project specifically devoted to the Curley/Kerley surname.
To order your DNA test, click HERE.
After ordering your test, be sure to log in to your account and join the Curley surname project.
Questions or Comments
Contributions to this webpage by other Curley researchers are welcomed. If you have any additional information, questions, or suggestions, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The contents of this website are the property of Brandon Curley and may not be reused without permission, except where otherwise noted.
News and Updates
Updated the DNA testing table with new members and expanded testing.
- Sep 10, 2017
Added a few more project members to the DNA table.
- Jun 20, 2017
Updated the DNA page with several new project members. Previously observed trends in the data continue to be upheld.
- May 2, 2017
Updated the DNA table with an added Group 4 member from County Sligo.
- Feb 3, 2017
Just updated the DNA test chart, adding several new tests. This includes a few more single lineages comprising their own new groups. The Kerley lineage of Louth has grown, now including two lineages with an MRCA estimate centered at 6 generations. The relationship of this lineage to other groups is not yet clear. But the genetic distance between the Louth lineages shows that it has probably been in the area for some time.
- Dec 10, 2016
I've updated the DNA testing chart for several new tests over the past months, including an upgraded 111 marker test in Group 1, a 67 marker upgrade in Group 2, a new member of Group 5A, and a new solitary individual comprising Group 20. There were no surprises or remarkable discoveries arising from any of the new tests. It looks like we've probably got all the major family groups sampled at this point, and new tests are mostly just adding data points to established groups.
- Jun 17, 2016
Some Group 4 members have upgraded to 67 markers, confirming an early MRCA among this group from about the 15th century. We also have a new project member of Group 2 of the Athlone area, confirming an MRCA for the Athlone population of around 1650 AD.
- Mar 13, 2016
We have a new member of the Group 2 lineage. Unlike all the other members of this group, who are from Athlone, this lineage traces to County Mayo. Also, there's a new probable member of Group 4 from County Roscommon and a new genetic lineage from County Galway. Renumbered many of the groups to make room for the new lineage.
- Feb 26, 2016
New DNA data from the Group 4 Galway Curleys confirms an ancient connection between the Galway/Roscommon population and the Oriel population, which proves that this lineage likely represents the original Curley lineage descended from the MacOirghiallaigh/MacOirealla progenitor of the Oirghialla kingdom. Full details on the "news" page.
- Feb 9, 2016
I've identified the Burns/O'Beirne family of County Roscommon as the possible gene source of an NPE into the Athlone Curley lineage. More details on the "news" page.
- Nov 30, 2015
Some member of the M222 Irish group have been confirmed as NOT belonging to the A738/BY198 haplogroup. I've reorganized the M222 project groupings accordingly.
- Oct 22, 2015
The main lineage of M222 Irish Curleys has been confirmed as belonging to subclade BY198/A738. M222 Curleys whose group placement based on STR data is currently unclear should order the A738 SNP test to confirm whether they are members of this lineage.
- Oct 1, 2015
Updated the information regarding the Ulster McCurley family on the Scottish page. I can find no documentary evidence for the supposed ancestor Isaac McCurley and no proof that this family is in fact from Scotland. So I edited down the content of this section to only include information that is supported by documentation. If anyone knows of any source material regarding Isaac McCurley or the supposed Scottish origin of this lineage, please let me know at email@example.com.
- Sep 18, 2015
Added some additional Irish manuscripts to the Irish page. These manuscripts provide further proof of Mc Oirghiallaigh/Oirealla as a legitimate Irish family name, not to be confused with Mc Toirdealbhaigh/Turlough.
- Aug 21, 2015
Updated the DNA data with the addition of a French Corlew individual. This lineage probably descends from the French Corlieu family with ties to the English Curlieu family. This individual's DNA test shows no connection to any of the Irish Curleys or English Kerleys. We also have one more individual added to the Irish Curley group of Galway and Sligo. This group continues to expand its range and size.
- Feb 19, 2015
I just discovered that Woulfe's original 1906 publication of "Irish Names and Surnames" has Curley as being derived from MacOirealla. It is only in the later 1921 publication that he incorrectly groups Curley with other surnames as being derived from MacThoirdealbhaigh.
- Feb 12, 2015
The "Irish Curley 3" group, with members from counties Galway and Sligo, now has an MRCA estimated to be from the 16th century. This group probably descends from one of the first M'Curley settlers in the Galway/Roscommon area, possibly representing the original MacOirghiallaigh lineage of the Airghialla kingdom.
- Feb 2, 2015
The M222 members of our project have been reorganized, with several distinct groups having developed from recent testing. There is an Irish Curley group, an Ulster Scot McCurley group, and an English Curley, all distinct, unrelated groups. The "Irish Curley 2" group also has some new test results showing that they are not a member of Clan Colla. However this does not refute the MacOirghiallaigh origin of the family, which is based on documentary evidence.
- Feb 1, 2015
A new heraldry section has been added to the website.
- Jan 31, 2015
Evidence continues to mount in favor of the MacOirealla origin for the Irish Curleys. I've found a MacOirghiallaigh mentioned in the Annals of Ulster for the year 1447 AD, and this document has now been added to the "Irish" page.
- Jan 3, 2015
Recent discoveries suggest that the Irish Curley name and lineage may descend from the kingdom of Airghialla, having a modern spelling of Oirealla, with family members going by the name MacOirealla. This kingdom is located in counties Lough and Monaghan. One of our project's genetic lineages may represent the original Curley lineage. See the news page for full details.
- Dec 13, 2014
Latest DNA tests show three separate genetic lineages from the Roscommon/Galway Curleys, likely the result of NPEs.
- Oct 30, 2014
Studies of a L1066 subgroup reveal that the Irish Curleys probably descend from a Gaelic lineage that's been in central Ireland since about 800 AD or earlier.
- July 31, 2014
The Curley Surname DNA Project through FTDNA will soon be starting a full court press to find representatives of the Scottish Kerley lineage and the Norman English Curlieu lineage. The goal is to define the genetic patterns identifying each of these groups, and determine whether these groups are related to the Irish Curley lineage or any other previously identified genetic groups.
- May 6, 2014
After several years of research and labor, the Curley Surname web page has officially launched! Three cheers for the Curley clan!
- May 6, 2014