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Family history



Family History


     Our 7th great-grandfather Samuel Henry Neely, was likely born in either Scotland or Northern Ireland around 1695.  It is believed that he and his wife Elizabeth migrated to the New World sometime during the early decades of the 18th century.  They originally settled in southeastern Pennsylvania and lived there until at least 1740.  It appears that Samuel Henry generally went by the name Henry.  He died around 1779 and is buried in Bethesda Presbyterian Church Graveyard in present day York County, South Carolina. Henry and Elizabeth were the parents of our 6th great-grandmother Sarah Neely.

     Sarah Neely married Michael Dickson sometime around 1750, probably in Anson County, North Carolina. This event may have been indicative of a relationship by the two families that went back for almost two decades.  Although her place of birth remains a question it is believed that Sarah was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1734.   It is known that the Neelys' lived for some time, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the area of Chester County known as Nantmeal Township, as did Michael's family.  Thus it is entirely possible that the two families were acquainted as early as 1736, long before either migrated to the Carolinas.  For most of her married life Sarah lived in the area of South Carolina that is now Chester County.  Between 1750 and 1776 Sarah bore at least nine known children, six of which we boys.  Because her husband Michael was a Major in the militia he was often away from home during the American Revolution.  Therefore the responsibility of maintaining her family at this time was probably great and at times harrowing because of marauding Tories bent on the destruction of the homes of the men who supported the revolt, especially prominent families of military officer's such as the Dicksons'.  About 1789, Michael and Sarah Dickson moved westward to Pendleton District, (now Anderson County) South Carolina, where they lived out the balance of their lives.  Sarah and Michael were of the Presbyterian faith as were most "Scots-Irish".  As such they were associated with the Old Stone Presbyterian Church at Clemson, where some members of the Dickson family are buried.  Sarah preceded her husband in death in 1815 at the age of 80 years.   The only evidence of her actual resting place is at Pickens Cemetery, in present day Anderson County, South Carolina where at the base of Michael’s tombstone is a marker bearing his name, dates of birth and death, and in parentheses, "Wife Sarah Neely".

Origins of the surname


Origins of the Surname

Research into the history of this Neely family line indicates that the meaning and history of this surname is most likely linked to that area of Europe where Irish** and Scottish*** Gaelic language is still spoken. 


Meaning of the Name

NEELY is reduced form of the Irish surname McNeely.   The Scottish (Galloway) and northern Irish origins of McNeely are from an Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac an Fhilidh ‘son of the poet’.  The pure Irish surname is an Anglicized form of the Connacht name Mac Conghaile ‘son of Conghal’ which has also become the surname Connolly. The derivation Connacht is from the ancient Gaelic pre 10th century 'cu' meaning 'hound'. Broadly the translation is 'the son of the descendant of the hound'. Thus probably a nickname for a chieftain who possessed the qualities associated with that animal, i.e. speed, tenacity, and strength.



History of the Name

This surname derives from the famous clan name of 'Mac Conghaile'.  The name is (in all its forms) are most associated now with County Antrim and County Tyrone.  It has also been claimed that the name was first found in the counties Galway and Ulster from the descent of 'Mac Conghaola'. The translations of both clan names being the same.  The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John McNeely, which was dated October 28th 1686.  The changes in spelling from the Gaelic to the English are most responsible for the variant forms, and examples of these include Benjamin Neely, christened at Clogher, County Tyrone, on July 17th 1772, and George Neilly, who with his wife Mary, was a witness at the same village on September 27th 1792. Other recordings include William and Mary McNealey, whose daughter Jane was christened at Drumglass, County Tyrone, on March 3rd 1832. 


Early Immigrants to North America

During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries hundreds of thousands of Europeans made the perilous ocean voyage to America.  For many it was an escape from economic hardship and religious persecution.  For most it was an opportunity for to start over, own their own land, and make a better future for their descendents.  Immigration records show a number of people bearing the name of Neely, or one of its variants, as arriving in North America between the 17th and 20th centuries.  Some of these immigrants were: J.B McNeely, who arrived in Texas in 1835; John McNeely, who is recorded in Allegheny county, Pa. in 1831; John McNeilly, age 28; who came to New York city in 1812; Mary Nealy, aged eighteen, is numbered amongst the people fleeing the Irish 'Potato Famine', who joined the ship 'Rappahannock of Liverpool', bound for New York, and who collected passengers at Londonderry, on June 12th 1846.


** Irish Surname Meanings & Origins

Most if not quite all, Irish surnames, have a nickname origin, some being extremely robust in their modern interpretation, although any sensibility in this respect seems to have passed by the original name holders. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's Christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor.    In the latter part of the sixteenth century, an influx of settlers arrived in Ireland under the patronage of Elizabeth I of England, and colonized the country beyond the 'Pale', the area around Dublin that was the only part firmly under English control.  At the same time, groups of Presbyterian settlers were encouraged to migrate from Scotland to Ulster, thus establishing the distinctively Scottish surnames of Ulster. During the long centuries of English domination, Irish surnames were crudely Anglicized either phonetically or by translation. Irish surnames are now very widely dispersed, and are common in England as well as in Ireland, the United States and Australia.


***Scottish Surname Meanings & Origins

Scottish names derive from patronymics (e.g., Robertson), occupations (Burgess), local features or places (Guthrie), and nicknames (Inglis, meaning English). Patronymic names make up a large proportion of Scottish surnames, and use of them lingered in parts of the Highlands well into the 1800s. As for occupational names, only a few spring from Gaelic origins. As for nicknames, not all "Mac" names indicate a clan affiliation, and many fewer of these remain in use today than have existed in the past.  With Scottish surnames, it is worth remembering that the border with England in no way prevented names from crossing over, and that people moved constantly between Ireland and Scotland. Roots of some Scottish surnames can be traced to the followers of William the Conqueror, to Norse and Flemish origins (present-day Belgium), and to several other countries of Europe.  

Variations of the surname


Variations of
the Surname


Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to unfold and expand often leading to an overwhelming number of variants.  As such one can encounter great variation in the spelling of surnames because in early times, spelling in general and thus the spelling of names was not yet standardized.  Later on spellings would change with the branching and movement of families.  Spelling variations of this family name include: MacNealey, McNeilly, McNeillie, McNillie, McNeely, McNelly, Mcneely, Neilly, Neeley, Nealey, Neely, Coneely, and many others. 


The complexity of researching records is compounded by the fact that in many cases an ancestors surname may also have been misspelled.  This is especially true when searching census documents. The Soundex system was developed in an effort to assist with identifying spelling variations for a given surname.  Soundex is a method of indexing names in the 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 US Census, and can aid genealogists in their research.  The Soundex Code for Neely is N400. Other surnames sharing this Soundex Code:  NAIL | NALL | NALLY | NEAL | NEALE | NEALY | NEEL | NEELEY | NEELY | NEIL | NEILL | NELL | NEWELL | NEWHALL | NOEL | NOELL | NOLL | NOWELL | NULL |.

Source: Surname Resources at ROOTSWEB


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Direct ancestors


Ancestral Lineage

Descendant Register

Generation 1

Samuel Henry Neely-1 was born on Abt. 1695 in Scotland or Northern Ireland. He died on Abt.  1779 in Camden District (York Co.), South Carolina. He married Elizabeth Neely (nee?). She was born on Abt. 1694 in Scotland or Northern Ireland. She died on 25 Oct 1785 in Camden District (York Co.), South Carolina.

Children of Samuel Henry Neely and Elizabeth Neely (nee?) are:

                John Neely, B: 1722, D: 11 Oct 1783 in Fishing Creek, Chester Co., South Carolina.

                Thomas Neely, B: 1724, D: Fishing Creek, Chester Co., South Carolina.

                Samuel Neely, B: 1726, D: 09 Sep 1803 in Fishing Creek, Chester Co., South Carolina.

                James Neely, B: Abt. 1729, D: Abt. 1795.

                Robert Neely, B: Abt. 1730, D: 1793.

                William Neely, B: 1734, D: Aug 1780 in Nashville, Tennessee.

                       Sarah Neely, B: Feb 1735 in Chester County, Pennsylvania??, D: 17 Feb 1815 in 

                                                Pendleton District, South Carolina, M: 1755 in South Carolina.

           Margaret Neely, B: 1736, D: 1772 in Fishing Creek, Chester Co., South Carolina.

           Jane Neely, B: 1742, D: Mar 1816.


Generation 2

Sarah Neely-2(Samuel Henry Neely-1) was born on Feb 1735 in Chester County, Pennsylvania??.  She died on 17 Feb 1815 in Pendleton District, South Carolina. She married Michael Dickson on 1755 in South Carolina, son of John Dickson and Elizabeth Dickson (Mdn. Nm. Unk.). He was born on 17 Jun 1731 in Near Newery, County Down, Ireland. He died on 17 Jul 1825 in Pendleton District, South Carolina. She married Michael Dickson on Bet. 1750-1755 in Anson County, North Carolina?, son  of John Dickson and Elizabeth Dickson (Mdn. Nm. Unk.). He was born on 17 Jun 1731 in Near Newery, County Down, Ireland. He died on 17 Jul 1825 in Pendleton District, South Carolina.

Children of Sarah Neely and Michael Dickson are:

i.             Robert Dickson, B: Abt. 1750, D: Abt. 1783 in Rocky Ford, Effingham Co., Georgia, M: Jan 1771 in (Ebenezer Church), St Matthews Parish, Effingham, Georgia.

ii.            Jane Dickson, B: 1758 in South Carolina, D: 17 Aug 1842 in Pendleton, Anderson Co., South Carolina, M: Abt. 1785 in Chester District, South Carolina.

iii.          James Dickson, B: Abt. 1763 in Camden District (Chester Co.), South Carolina, D: 31 Oct 1805.

iv.          Samuel Henry Dickson, B: 1765 in Camden District (Chester Co.), South Carolina, D: 1835 in South Carolina.

v.           John Dickson, B: 1768 in Camden District (Chester Co.), South Carolina, D: 1831 in Newnan, Coweta Co., Georgia.

vi.          Elizabeth Dickson, B: 15 Oct 1772 in Camden District (Chester Co.), South Carolina, D: Georgia.

vii.         Hugh Dickson, B: 15 Oct 1772 in Camden District (Chester Co.), South Carolina, D: 09 Jul 1853.

viii.       Nancy Dickson, B: Abt. 1776 in Camden District (Chester Co.), South Carolina, D:  06 Sep 1807.

ix.          William Dickson, B: 26 Nov 1779 in Ninety-Six District (Chester Co.), South Carolina, M: 04 Mar 1806 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.


Additional information about our DIRECT ANCESTORS  as well as a complete listing of individuals with this surname may be reviewed by clicking on the following LINK.


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Ancestral locations




Researching the locations where our ancestors lived has provided us with valuable evidence needed to fill-in the gaps in our family trees.  It has also led us to many interesting facts that enhance the overall picture of each family group.  The names of states and counties on the following list were derived from the known places where the persons in the “Direct Ancestors” list (see above) were born, married, and/or died.







Chester County

North Carolina

Anson County

South Carolina

York Co., Chester Co., Anderson Co.


Use this LINK to find out more about the locations listed above.


Source documents




The documents contained herein have been located during our research of this family, and used as evidence to prove many of the facts contained within the database of this family’s record.


     Most of these documents can be considered as primary or secondary.  Primary evidence is usually defined as the best available to prove the fact in question, usually in an original document or record.  Secondary evidence is in essence all that evidence which is inferior in its origin to primary evidence. That does not mean secondary evidence is always in error, but there is a greater chance of error.  Examples of this type of evidence would be a copy of an original record, or oral testimony of a record’s contents.  Published genealogies and family histories are also secondary evidence.

     Classifying evidence as either primary or secondary does not tell anything about its accuracy or ultimate value.  This is especially true of secondary evidence.  Thus it is always a good idea to ask the following questions: (1) How far removed from the original is it, (when it is a copy)?;  (2) What was the reason for the creation of the source which contains this evidence?; and (3) Who was responsible for creating this secondary evidence and what interest did they have in its accuracy?

SOURCE:  Greenwood, Val D., The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 2nd edition, Genealogical Publishing  Co., Baltimore, MD 21202, 1990, pgs. 62-63


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