Tag Archives: Peter O’Kelly

Peter Cally/Calley/Cealah/Okally/O’Kelly of Dorchester, MA, 17th Century

In my quest to identify the maiden name and/or parents of Susannah, wife of Thomas Burnham (1673-1749), I investigated quite a few potential families. One was unique enough to merit its own post and the other online information was such a mess that it, too, will have its own post to help others.

Today’s unique family history is that of Peter Calley, as he is found in the Dorchester, Massachusetts birth record of his daughter, Susannah, dated 18 December 1682.

Although I was able to fill in the births of several other children, I could find no wife’s name nor did Peter appear in any land or probate records for Suffolk County.

Given that his first child was born in 1680, Peter was probably born c1655 and possibly in Ireland. It is also possible that he married in Ireland and that one or two children were born there before he emigrated to Massachusetts. More on that in a bit.

The following children were born to Peter, all in Dorchester, between 1680 and 1696. However, the spelling of his surname varied tremendously – Cally/Calley/Cealah/Okally. There were no death or marriage records found for anyone.


1. Ruth, born 20 December 1680
2. Susannah, born 18 December 1682
3. Henry, born 15 July 1683
4. Josiah, born 3 November 1688
5. Hepzebeth, born 3 April 1696

No further records were found in Dorchester, in Massachusetts or even in New England for Peter or his family. Google, however, is our research friend and a very interesting article came up in the Journal of the American-Irish Historical Society, dated 1919. The article was titled An Authoritative Account of the Earliest Irish Pioneers in New England by Michael J. O’Brien (18: 116-144).

Peter O’Kelly of Dorchester is mentioned several times in this article. First, on 21 April 1679, Peter O’Kelly of Roxbury took the oath of allegiance administered by Governor Simon Bradstreet.

Next, on 27 July 1696, SEVEN of Peter O’Kelly’s children were baptized in the First Church of Dorchester. In December 1696, Margaret, Hannah and Mehitable O’Kelly (it is unknown whether these where daughters of Peter or other Kelly relatives) and Peter O’Kelly’s wife were admitted to the church.

What happened to this family after that? About 1700, a group of Dorchester residents decided to move south, all the way to Newington, South Carolina, located in the old, original (defunct) Berkeley County. They called their original settlement Dorchester, after their Massachusetts home.

Among the group was Peter O’Kelly’s wife and six children, dismissed from the Dorchester Church to the Church of Christ near Newington.

Peter O’Kelly’s name appears in South Carolina history books as one of the Massachusetts transplanted settlers, but I have not yet found descendants there.

Newington Plantation is a historic archeological site in today’s Dorchester County, South Carolina.

Records for the old, original Berkeley County were never kept at what we would call a county level. The county description is more of a geographical location than a governing district and, if you are a Kelly or O’Kelly descendant, there are some church parish records dating from c1706 found on FamilySearch.

Although there were a few colonists who removed from northern colonies to southern ones and vice versa, it was not a very common happening and South Carolina would not have been the first place I went looking for Peter O’Kelly outside of Massachusetts!

Given that the family moved more than 900 miles from Dorchester, Massachusetts, I have crossed Susannah Cally/O’Kelly off the list of potential young ladies who might have married Thomas Burnham.