From Guatemala to Ireland

“My name is Pablo Torrebiarte, and I am a Guatemalan on the four sides. My interest with the O’Kelly family started with a huge picture of a balding friar hanging from the walls on our Cathedral. There is an inscription on it that reads: “Friar Sebastian O’Kelly, pastor of this church from 1775 to 1795, Theology Magister of the Province and Ordinary Professor of Kakchiquel, K’iché and Tzutuhil (the three main Mayan tongues) at the University”.


Since my childhood I thought he was an Irish friar on Guatemala. Not long ago, reading the baptismal records of our Cathedral, I found the record of one of his brothers (Friar Paulinus O’Kelly y Vega)! As I continued reading backwards in time, more O’Kellys surfaced until I got to D. Balthassar de O’Kelly (or “Oqueli” in Spanish form) who married Da. Thomasa García in 1723. He is the first of the name to come to our town (Quetzaltenango).

I found also that D. Balthassar is our tenth grandfather! (In Spanish the second grandfather is the “bisabuelo” or greatgrandfatner, the third is the “tatarabuelo” or greatgreatgrandfather, then comes the fourth “abuelo”, and so on).

But I have not been able to get more info on D. Balthassar. The record of their marriage we have is a “velation”, which is the first high Mass heard as a couple by the newly weds. The velation was done if the couple had got married elsewhere outside Mass. And the velation record does not specify the parents for either of them. I have tried to look for him in the ship records to America, as well as in the Spanish army records, but so far, I have met no success. I have come to think that D. Balthassar is a Guatemalan born Irish too.

Recently, I came across an Irish corsair (“el capitán Enrique Oqueli, un corsario de nación Irlandesa” reads the record) that defended the Guatemalan coast against English ships. He raided them during the early 18th. century. His name could be translated as Henry (or Harry) O’Kelly. His port base was Saint Philip’s Castle (“Castillo de San Felipe del Golfo Dulce”) in Guatemala’s Atlantic coast (we don´t call it Caribbean, it is either the Atlantic or the North coast). There, he acted as commander of the garrison.

My blind guess (from his career as a sea and war captain) is that he is the first O’Kelly to come to the shores of Guatemala (One of the wild geese?)

My next move will be to locate some info on Henry in the Spanish archives.

Now my question to you,

A tenth (or an eleventh!) Irish grandfather is ground enough to be member of the clan Kelly?


Pablo Torrebiarte”