George Wood Kells of Ottawa states that he
remembers many of the members of the original
family. "In particular I remember my Grandad
George Wood Kells real well and liked him very
much. He had lived at our home on one or two
occassions [occasions?] previous to this last
trip from the 6th of Peel in 1883 or 1884. Two
boys brought him up that seventeen miles in a
plain farm wagon. He had with him a homemade
box for a trunk, a mattress and a blanket, the
last of his worldly possessions after all his
generosity to various members of his family.
My mother and my sister Elizabeth and myself
were standing,at the kitchen door when the
wagon came into the yard. They drove him down
to the barn, turned around smartly, drove back
a little past the house and stopped. The boys
dropped out - dropped the backboard - pulled
out the box and the mattress, then lifted the
"old gentleman", as we called him, to the ground.
He hobbled towards where we were standing. My
mother and we children gave him a warm welcome.
During all the time Grandad was with us I never
remember my mother either by look or gesture,
indicate that he was unwelcome. We children at
that time did not realize what it was all about.
He used to amuse himself with us youngsters and
pretend to chase us with his cane turned upside
down. He made it a point of never catching up
to us. Toward the end of his days he was
disoriented, especially after his first sleep
at night. He talked of "going back home"
presumably to Ireland. Occasionally, he did
get away from the house and always made his way
towards the G.T.R. track and the bush behind it.
We were a large family than and Grandad's bed
was upstairs with us. My bed was next to his,
end to end. The night he died, my dad and brother
Aaron were up and down all night. Coal oil was
then in use and I remember one of their lamps had a
blue bottom stand. That was March 16, 1886. The
snow was deep and the weather was cold. From the
front door we children watched the funeral procession
move away to his last resting place - Winfield.
Thomas Kells: - bachelor - Spent his later days with
younger brother David and his sister Elizabeth. The
winter before he passed away he lived at my home on
the 10th of Wallace for about three months. The last
time I saw him was when he passed the school during
recess on his way to Elizabeth Ott's home. He was
wearing a grey suit and long boots. He had passed me
by before I could greet him. He left $1200. in cash,
given to him earlier by his father George Wood Kells.
He had never worked. In his will he left $300. to
three of his nephews, Robert Malcolm and david and
the remaining $300. to me out of which his funeral
expenses were to be paid. A few years later there was
little over $100. for me, but I was very grateful as it
was my High School Days.
William Lawrence Kells - When I wrote Entrance
examinations to High School I stayed at his place
and went out to his farm north of Listowel to watch
birds. I remember him at my mother's funeral, and I
also was at his funeral December 22, 1907. I visited
his eldest son Robert in New Rochelle, New York on two
or three occasion [occasions?]. He was always a grand
host. Of course, I knew all other members of the
family. Clarissa, whom I liked best of all. Then Edward,
[Olive?] Lottie and Anna the youngest with her snapping
black eyes - still living in California this date
(1969). The rest of Unce William' family have all gone
to their reward.
Elizabeth Kells Ott: - My sister Elizabeth visited at
her home on the 10th of Maryborough. Her daughter seemed
closer to us than most other relatives. I remember
William her oldest by who with his family moved to
Pasadena. John R. Ott was a frequent visitor to our
home before he married. He loved horses, and was an
all round good fellow.
Mary Ann Kells: - Mrs. John McKensty and
later Mrs. John Higgins. She was quite small
in comparison to other members of the
family. Very versatile, charming and
considerate. She was a great cook. I remember
a meal I had at Uncle Philip Ott's home which
she cooked. It was a special flour pudding
with raisins and figs (nothing has come up to
it since). She was a great favourite with
my father Richard Kells. This will be born
out by the fact that the feeling must have
been mutual as she left him the back half
of her fifty acre farm on the 6th of Peel
when she passed away. She used to spend a
lot of time at our home on the 10th of
Jane Kells Hassard: - Wife of Robert
Hassard was a big bonnie woman, expressing
physical strength in all her movements,
yet a very striking woman with a beautiful
Irish complexion. She gave me the
impression as a boy in my teens that if she
were a man she would make a good chief of
police in a metropolitan city. I remember
the day of her funeral. My Dad returned
from Dundalk the same hour that I returned
from Harriston High School. It was a Friday.
The senior members of the Hassard family
whose homes I visited or met on the pathway
of life were Jemima Allen whose early married
life was spent at Farewell, Ontario. Lynn
McPherson, whose husband kept store at
Farewell and later at Mount Forest. Rachael
Pool who lived at Toronto and later Vancouver.
Effie Wadge who was single in the nineties
and went west to North Dakota where she was
married. Robert George a very handsome
fellow, who died at the age of 24. And Aaron
who was a twin to Effie.
Ancient History - Myths and Traditions
There is no name that occurs more
frequently in the myths, traditions and
history, or in the names of small places
in Ireland and Scotland, than KELLS. In the
mythical history of these countries the
ancestry of the Kellses has been traced
back to Milesius, founder of the Milesian
of Scottish nation many centuries before
the Christian era.
Much information of intense interest
will be found in the following volumes
selected from a large number
Ireland's Ancient Schools and
The Israel of the Alps
The Valley of Light
Agnew's French Protestant Exiles
O'Hart's Irish Pedigrees
Sources of Information Concerning Kells History
The basis of the history of the Kells
family is the family records which were brought
from Ireland in 1846, and which have been added
to through correspondence from time to time,
and while far from being complete, give much
information with reference to a people who have
had a strange and unusual experience.
The statements made in the old records have
been verified by comparison with printed
histories which can be referred to in the
Genealogical Department of the New York
Public Library at 42nd Street.
The early history of the Vaudois will
be found in "The Israel of the Alps", by Rev.
John Montgomery, Glasgow, Scotland, translated
from the French history by Alexis Muston D.D.
or Bordeaux.The facts for this history were
taken from the manuscripts of Vignaux, an
Vaudois pastor. The family traditions agree
with this history.
"The Valley of Light", by W. Basil Worsfold
published by McMillan & Co. London, also
verifies the old records.
"A History of the Thirty Years' War, describes
the raid of the French on the German Huguenots
and establishes the date as probably 1631.
The family records state that the time of the
flight from Germany to Britain was before the
middle of the 17th Century, and John O'Hart,
a recognized authority on Irish family
pedigrees, states in his book "Irish Pedigrees",
that there were no families by the name of
Kells in Ireland at the close of the 17th Century
verifying the statement that the family came to
Ireland early in the 18th Century. However, this
gives no hint as to the original names or whether
they were a family or a community. We must
therefore assume as correct the statements
in the oldest existing family record that the
Kellses of Ireland have descended from the
father, mother and one child, who in company
with other refugees, reached the shores of
England early in the seventeenth century.
According to the oldest written records
that can be found, the Kells family originated
in the Piedmont Valleys, now one of the most
northern provinces of Italy, but at one time
a part of France under the rule of the Duke
of Savoy. The inhabitants of Piedmont were
called Vaudois or people of the valleys, and
later as Waldenses.
Little was known of them until the
beginning of the 13th Century when political
and religious persecutions were inaugurated
against them, the horrors of which are fully
described in various histories these
persecutions were continued intermittently
until the close of the 16th Century when
many of the Vaudois sought safety in [flight?]
Among these exiles was a pastor, the
first of the ancestors of the family of whom
we have any record. Passing through Switzer-land,
and across Lake Geneva, after many hardships
they found a secure retreat for a time in the
Palatinate, on the banks of the
Rhine in Germany, associating themselves with
the Hugenots. Here the exiled pastor died,
and a son, whose name has been recorded as
Alexander was born.
During the Thirty Years' War, which was
brought about by the Reformation, the Huguenot
Community was raided by a party of French
soldiers. The home of Alexander was burned
and most of his family massacred, but he escaped
with his wife and one child, among other refugees
to Britain locating near the Tweed River, in the
Cheviot Hills, which form the boundary between
England and Scotland.
The first members of the family to visit
Ireland were two young men attached to one of
the regiments of William III when he invaded
the country in 1690.
There is also a tradition that some
members of the family visited Ireland in one
of Cromwell's regiments, but no proof to that
effect can be found, and the name of a member
of the family is not listed in the official
published list of "Cromwell Land Adventures",
although members of the family acquired so-called
Cromwell Lands in Ulster County, under easy
tenure, and later by purchase.
The young men who visited Ireland with
William III are said to have come from the
North of England, near the Tweed River, and
were probably grandsons of Alexander (Kells)
who was one of the early religious refugees.
Their names were Robert and Alexander, names
occurring frequently in the families of later
generations. Alexander, one of the young men
already mentioned, was twice married, but of
his first wife and family, no record can be
found. His second wife was a member of the
Scottish clan of Carwford [Crawford?], and
said to be related to Sir William Wallaces
family. The name of only one child is recorded,
Robert by name.
Robert Kells was born in Northumberland County,
England near the Tweed River, in the vicinity
of the Cheviot Hills, on March 3, 1699. He died
at Buffalen, in Temrleport Parish, Cavan County,
Ireland, on April 4, 1805, being one hundred and
six years, one month and two days old. When a
young man he went over into the southern part of
Scotland. Here he married a young Scottish girl
by the name of Lawrence, whose family were
Covenatnters, but of Scandanavian origin.
About the year 1730 Robert Kells passed
over into Ireland accompanied by his brother,
and other relatives, settling near Ballyconnel
in the County of Cavan.
The date of the birth of Robert Kells
II has not been recorded but he died about
1834 at the age of seventy-seven. He was a
tall, fair haired man of soldierly appearance.
He learned, and sometimes
worked at the trade of shoemaking in
Ballyconnell, but generally engaged in farming.
He was also a soldier in the Irish Rebellion of
1798: He married Margaret Wood of Ardew, whose
parents were of Welsh descent. They had seven
sons and three daughters. Ralph, Thomas, Elizabeth
and Ellen died young. The surviving children were
Robert, Alexander, George Wood, Henry and Jane.
Jane, the eldest of the family, emigrated to
America in 1846 with her brother George Wood,
and later died at his residence.
Robert married Mary McAllister. They had a
large family of which five reached maturity;
Edward, Robert, Henry, Thomas, and June.
Henry married Jane Sommerville. He had a
large family as well. About 1850 he disposed
of his property and emigrated to Australia
with his family, with the exception of his eldest
daughter Jane, who emigrated to America
with her cousin George.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME KELLS
The origin of the name Kells is rather
uncertain, but the following reference to
it is taken from "Harrison's Surnames of
the United Kingdom"/ Henry Harrison, London,
Kells: (Celt) Belonging to Kells, Scotland. It
is doubtful whether this name is an Anglicized
plural from of Gael or Cill, a cell or church,
(Latin, Cella) or gael or coil, a wood or
forest. As there are the remains of an ancient
forest in the parish, supposed to have been a
royal hunting ground, the latter' is probably
the true etyman.
Kells: (Ireland): The Irish Kellses are usually
the Anglicized form of Irish "caella", place
of cill, a church or cell, but Kells in Meath
was formerly Kenlis, for Irish Caennles; "head-
fort" (cean-head, plus-lis fort.)
As it was required by the British statutes
that foreigners adopt an English name in order
to own landed property, it is likely that the
ancestors of the family selected their name,
or the Anglicized form of the one they had,
shortly after coming to Britain.
EARLY HISTORY OF THE KELLS FAMILY
According to traditions, the Kells family
originated in the Piedmont Valleys, now one
of the most northern provinces of Italy, but
at one time a part of France and under the rule
of the Duke of Savoy.
The inhabitants of Piedmont were called
Vaudois or people of the valleys; and later as
Waldenses. The Vaudois were among the earliest
Christians and according to Samuel Smises, in
his "History of the Vaudois", they were probably
Christianized by St. Paul early in the second
During the Middle Ages, missionaries from Kells
and other towns visited the Piedmont Valleys
and established monasteries there. The first of
record being St. Columbanus, who founded a
monastery at Babbie, which is still standing.
For reasons both political and religious,
the Vaudois in common. with other dissenters,
were persecuted intermittently for centuries,
and from time to time, those who could
do so, fled for protection to parts of Europe
friendly to their beliefs, for they were
among the earliest Protestants.
Among the refugees, late in the 16th century,
was a Vaudois pastor who with his family sought
safety on the banks of the Rhine in Germany, allying
with the Huguenots, a people of similar beliefs, and
subjected to constant persecutions. The locality in
which the ancestors of the Kells family resided was
raided by a party of French soldiers and the pastor
and his wife and one child escaped the general
massacre, and with other Huguenots fled to Britain
for safety. This event occurred before the reign of
Louis XLV, or about 1575. They joined refugees in the
County of Northumberland, near the banks of the Tweed
River, in the vicinity of the Cheviot Hills in England.
Until near the close of the 17th Century the
history of the family is almost a blank. Of the early
descendants of these refugees little is known. Some
of them went over into Scotland, and are there at the
SAINT COLUMBA OR COLUM CILLE
St. Columba, otherwise known as Colum Cille
or Colum Kells, was born in the north-west of
Ireland about 521 A.D.. He is represented, according
to an ancient chronicle, as having resigned his
hereditary claim on the kingship of the island
with the object of devoting himself to a monastic
About the year 553 he founded a monastery
at Durrow, in central Ireland, which became his most
important establishment in that country, and shortly
after he founded another at Kells.
He withdrew from his native land to Iona in 563.
This island was afterwards known as Hy-Columkille,
and became, through the missionary exertion of himself
and his successors in the Abbitial See, the radiating
center of Christian civilization in the north of Britain
and the chosen burial place of the kings of Pictland
Among the family traditions are claims of Ancient
Origin; Royal Blood; Coat of Arms; etc.
As to Ancient Origin, the Vaudois of the
Alpine Valleys claim to be of very ancient origin,
dating back to, or even before the time of Christ.
In a volume published in London, and written by
Samuel Smiles, the statement is made that they
were probably Christianized by St. Paul early
in the Second Century. A school-master in
Ireland claimed to have traced the family back
to the time of King David, but those records if
they ever existed are now lost. The family is
certainly of quite ancient origin.
The claim of Royal Blood probably
originates in the fact that St. Columba, or
Colum Cille (Colum Kells) was a blood relative
of King Diarmait, monarch of all Ireland in the
7th Century, and hereditary heir to the throne,
renouncing his claim to devote himself to a
religious life. From this saint, whose relatives
visited the Alpine Vallies as missionaries, and
intermarried with the ancestors of the family,
the Kellses are believed to have received their
Royal Blood and original family name or its
Diligent search in all records of crests
fail to locate a Coat of Arms for the family.
The family however, has a crest, a Boar's head.
The Baron of Kells, in Kilkenny, Ireland, who
may have been related to the family, has a very
elaborate and beautiful Coat of Arms. The Crawford
family, related to Sir William Wallace and other
distinguished families of Britain, with whom the
Kellses intermarried have crests which may
rightfully be adopted.
St. Columba, otherwise known as
Colum Cille or Colum Kells, was born in
the north-west of Ireland about 521 A.D.
He is represented, according to ancient
chronicle, as having resigned his
hereditary claim on the kingship of the
island with the object of devoting himself
to a monastic life.
About the year 533 he founded a
monastery at Durrow in central Ireland,
which became his most important establishment
in that country, and shortly after founded
another at Kells.
He withdrew from his native land to
Iona in 563, which island afterwards known
as Hy-Columkille, became through the
missionary exertions of himself and his
successors in the Abbatial See, the
radiating centre of Christian civilization
in the north of Britain, and the chosen
burial place of the Kings of Pictland
The names of both St. Columba and St.
Patrick are still legible on one of the
ancient stone crosses to be seen at the
town of Kells. Colum Cille is commemorated
as one of the three patron saints of Ireland
on June 9th, the anniversary of his death
in the year 597o
THE BOOK OF KELLS
The Book of Kells, which is now in the library
of Trinity College, Dublin, is a splendid
manuscript copy of four Gospels, written on
parchment, in Latin, and richly ornamented
It dates from the sixth century, and was
then produced by St. Colum Cille, and the
monks of the Monastery of Kells. Each Gospel
is prefaced by an illuminated page, having
reference to the manuscript following, and
contains both figures and scrolls of the most
varied and beautiful designs, coupled with
a brilliancy of coloring which is simply
marvellous, when the age of the volume and
vicissitudes it has undergone are taken into
consideration. Not alone the title pages, but
the capital letters, are in scroll form and
richly colored, and the Celtic designs are
of such beauty that they are now reproduced
in every description of art and needlework.
The Book of Kells was jealously guarded from
its earliest years, and tradition affirms that
it was kept in a case of gold, and finally
stolen from the monastery in 1006, to be found
several months later under sods in a bog, minus
it's gold cover and many of it's beautiful pages.
Subsequently, the book came into the hands of
Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, and it was presented
by him to Trinity College, together with other
valuable works, about the year 1656.
The book is now kept in a glass case in the
college library and shown to visitors upon the
production of an order from one of the Fellows;
and those privileged to behold it are struck,
not only by the varied, yet even harmonious tone
of it's coloring, but by the clear firm writing of
the manuscript. On many of the pages the ink
appears as fresh as though it were only a writing
of yesterday, making it difficult to realize that
this precious volume is the work of hands which
were laid to rest over twelve hundred years ago.
The Book of Kells in its present condition
contains 339 leaves of thick, finely glazed
vellum, but no estimate has been made of the
number of leaves that have been lost.
A complete history, with colored reproduction
of many of its pages, is to be found in the
"Book of Kells", by Sir Edward Sullivan,
published in London, England.
PLACES NAMED KELLS
The town of Kells, in the County of
Meath, in Ireland, is situated on the Blackwater
River, a tributary of the Boyne, about forty miles
from Dublin. The town is one of the chief market
places in the county and it's streets are well
kept and present an appearance of neatness.
It was known in days as early as St.
Patrick's, by the Latinised form of Cenondae,
bearing at a somewhat later date the names of
Cenannus and Kenlis. Kenansa was its old Irish
name. Within its precincts today, there are
standing three very ancient Irish stone crosses,
a round tower, unroofed and still about ninety
feet high; and a building which has long been
described as the house of St. Columba.
The history of Kells and it's Abbey, from late
in the 9th Century to the end of the 10th, is
a tale of continuous struggle against domestic
and foreign aggression. In 899 the Abbey was
sacked and pillaged. In 918 the Danes plundered
the town and laid the church level with the
ground. Rebuilt, it was again spoiled and
pillaged by the Danes in 946. Three years
later, [Godfrey?], son of Sitric, plundered
the Abbey. In 967 the town was despoiled by
a United force of Danes and Leinster people;
while in 996 the Danes of Dublin made yet
another pillaging raid on both the town and
The village Kells, in the County of
Antrim, Ireland, is situated on the Kells
River, a tributary of the Main River which
discharges its waters into Lough Neagh. It is
an unimportant place of about 185 inhabitants.
The Vi11age of Kells, in the County of
Kilkenny, Ireland is situated on a tributary of
the Barrow River which empties into Waterford
Harbor. It has about 200 inhabitants.
The Village of Kells, in Kircudbrighshire,
Scotland, is situated in Kells Parish, the
remains of a royal hunting ground. The
Parish is situated between the Ken and Dee
Rivers and contains 48,521 acres, with a
population of about 900. There is a range
of hills called by the same name in the
Parish. It is probable that the Kells Family
received their name from this Parish.
Port Kel1s. British Columbia, founded by
the Kellses of Cavan about 1890.
LONGEVITY OF THE KELLS FAMILY
The Vaudois were remarkable for their
longevity, a trait that was inherited by their descendants for centuries after
they had left their native valleys.
A quotation from "The Valley of Light"
states..."For still in the said valley there
are at present, old people, many of them who
approached, and some of whom have passed the
age of 100 years".
David C. Agnew of Edinburgh, Scotland,
who is the author of two large volumes devoted
to the Vaudois, makes special reference to
In "The Israel of the Alps", particular
reference is made to the great age of Vignaux,
a Vaudois pastor, who died in 1605 in his one
The records of the Kells family shows
that they inherited the longevity of their
ancestors. Robert Kells of Templeport Parish,
Cavan, Ireland, the first of the family of whom
we have exact record, having been born in 1699
and died in 1805. Also his daughter Phoebe,
reached the age of [109?] years and his son
George died at the age of 96. His grandson
Robert Kells, of Ballyhady, lived to the age
of 104; and his grandson James of Kellenaff
passed on at 103. Richard Kells of Palmerston,
Ontario Canada reached his 90th year, as did Frances
Kells Waddingham of California, and Robert Johnston
(Kells) of Canada. Lucas Kells of Los Angeles,
California lived into his late eighties.
As our records are incomplete there are
undoubtedly many others in the family who have
reached a patriarchal age.
Traditions differ somewhat as to when the
first members of the family visited Ireland,
but it is generally agreed that two young men of
the name Kells, were with the "Land Adventurers"
when Oliver Cromwell invaded the country. It is
also claimed that members of the family were
with the armies of King William at the Battle
of the Boyne in 1690, and that they came into
possession of large tracts of land in the
"Ulster Plantation", in the northern counties
of Ireland; considerable of which is still
occupied or owned by their descendants;
especially those in the Counties of Cavan
One of these young men, after returning
to England or Scotland, was twice married,
but of his first marriage we have no record.
His second wife was a Miss Crawford, a
descendant of the brother of Sir William
Wallace, one of the Kings of Scotland,
and traditions also claim, a sister of St.
Patrick. Of his children the name of only
one is recorded; Robert, by name, after one
of the Kings of Scotland.
Robert Kells was born in Northumberland
County, near the Tweed River, England, in the
vicinity of the Cheviot Hills, on March 3,
1699o He died in the town land of Buffalen,
near Ballyconnell, in the County of Cavan,
Ireland; and his remains were interred in
the graveyard of the Templeport Parish
Church. The date of his death was April 4,
1805; at the age of 106 years, 2 months
and 3 days.
Robert Kells received a liberal education, and
is said to have been ordained a clergyman of the
established church. When a young man he went over
into Scotland, where he taught school
and did pastoral work. Here he married Elizabeth
Lawrence, whose family were Covenanters.
During the reign of George III of England; Robert
Kells received a commission to remove to Ireland
where he became the War-den of the Parish 01122
leport, in the County of Cavan, Ireland.
With him also came ehls relatives, including
the Craw-fords, Johnston and Lawrence families.
Robert Kells also received a grand or the overcharge
of a large tract of land in the townlands of Buffalen,
Urnagh and Kellenaff in the County of Cavan, near
Ballyconnell. He resided in the town land of Buffalen,
and the property was distributed amongst his relatives
and other tenants; considerable of which is still owned
or occupied by his and their descendants. Robert Kells
had a large family, the names of the following have been
recorded: George, James, Robert, Ralph, Andrew, Henry,
Phoebe, Elizabeth and Ellen.
The first representatives of the family known to have come to America are claimed by their descendants to have been Scotch or of Scotch-Irish ancestry.
John Kells, also recorded as Johannis Kels in the records of the Dutch Church at Claverack, Columbia County, New York, came to America about 1750. In the census of 1790 he was listed as living at Claverack, N.Y. and that he had a wife; and four children under sixteen years of age, and four over sixteen years of age; and five slaves. He died in 1799o
The census of 1790 also records the names of Jacob Kells and wife and two children under sixteen years of age, living at Claverack, N.Y.
The records of the New York State Historian show that John Kells enlisted in the British Army, Capt. Thos. Terry's Company, Suffolk County, Long Island on May 4, 1758; and Daniel Kells in
Capt. John De Garmo's Company, Albany, N.Y. on December 24, 1763o
In the early years of the 19th Century, the Kells families became so numerous that there was no longer room for them on the estates in Ireland, and they began to move to other counties on the island or emigrate to the British Colonies in America, and Australia and New Zealand, to be followed from time to time by their relatives. The famine years of the 1840's also caused many to emigrate.