Saturday, July 2, 2016

Surname Saturday ~ KELLY of the Isles of Shoals

The Isles of Shoals
straddling New Hampshire and Maine

My ancestor Roger Kelly’s story is similar to the story of John FROST posted on June 11th.  Not much about him is known except for court records and deeds.  Both men lived on the Isles of Shoals, where there is a dearth of vital records, but plenty of court records because most of the inhabitants crossed the law because of physical altercations, drunkenness or other petty crimes. It was known as a lawless place, and because of this Roger Kelly was often in the records because he was not only the local constable, but he was also a judge, and he found himself on both sides of the law.

Diane Rapaport wrote about Roger Kelly.  She is a lawyer, and a genealogist, and Roger Kelly’s story must have fascinated her.  Much of what I know about Roger, my 10th great grandfather, came from Diane Rapaport’s article on him in the New England Ancestors journal, and from the book Pioneer Irish in New England (see below for both sources).   There is no proof that Roger Kelly was from Ireland, but he is generally thought to be of Irish origins. It would be nice to have at least one Irish ancestor in my family tree, but so far the closest I can prove is two Scots Irish ancestors.

Some books and articles claim that Roger Kelly came from Ireland with two brothers.  There is no proof of this although William Kelly lived at Great Island (New Castle, New Hampshire) and Charles lived at Kittery, Maine, both places close by to the Isles of Shoals.   Roger Kelly’s first record in the New World was a civil suit naming him as the mate of the Hope in the West Indies.  He served 15 weeks in a prison in Boston in 1664 for this suit for damages.  

Next, Roger shows up in the Isles of Shoals with his wife, Mary, as a tavern owner on Smuttynose Island, with frequent lawsuits.  So he moved to Hog Island (now Appledore Island in Maine) to be out of the jurisdiction of the New Hampshire court (yes, the Isles of Shoals are in both New Hampshire and Maine).   In 1666 he was in court for selling wine without a license.  He was a land owner and made constable in 1667, and later selectman.  He became the representative for the islands at the Massachusetts General Court.  Because of his influence on Smuttynose Island he was made Justice of the Peace.   He was both litigant and defendant on several occasions.

Being a magistrate on the Isles of Shoals made Roger Kelly an unpopular figure.   He suffered a lot of verbal abuse, and even physical attacks by the islanders who preferred to live freely in a state of drunkenness and disorder.   In his old age he suffered from blindness, as described by his son Charles in a 1698 deed transferring land in Kittery from Roger.   His daughter, Sarah Kelly, my 9th great grandmother, married John Frost of Star Island.   His grandson, John Frost, Jr. was in the court records in 1705 for a disagreement with Roger Kelly over a church bell.   

Some KELLY resources:

“Off shore Antics:  The Case of the Smuttynose Sailor Who Became Judge”, by Diane Rapaport, New England Ancestors,  2004, Volume 5.3, pages 48 -49. 

Pioneer Irish in New England, by Michael O’Brien, New York, New York: P. J. Kennedy & Sons, 1937.

Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire, by Charles Noyes, Charles Thornton Libby and Walter Goodwin Davis, 1939, page 396.

Also see Suffolk County, Massachusetts Court Records,   New Hampshire Court Records,  York County, Maine deeds.


My KELLY genealogy:

Generation 1:  Roger Kelly, born about 1629, origins unknown; married Mary Unknown, six children.

Generation 2:  Sarah Kelly married about 1674 to John Frost.  He was the son of John Frost and Rose Unknown, and died 7 April 1677 in York County, Maine.  Four children.

Generation 3:  Ithamar Frost m. Unknown
Generation 4: Sarah Frost m. John Mace
Generation 5: Ithamar Mace m. Rachel Berry
Generation 6: Abigail Mace m. Simon Locke
Generation 7:  Richard Locke m. Margaret Welch
Generation 8:  Abigail M. Locke m. George E. Batchelder
Generation 9: George E. Batchelder m. Mary Katharine Emerson
Generation 10: Carrie Maude Batchelder m. Joseph Elmer Allen
Generation 11: Stanley Elmer Allen m. Gertrude Matilda Hitchings (my grandparents)


Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Surname Saturday ~ KELLY of the Isles of Shoals", Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 2, 2016,  ( accessed [access date]). 

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