The Killion/Killian
Genealogy Page



Are you studying your "Killion" or "Killian" ancestors? Great!

Our name usually denotes either Irish or German descent. The path you'll take depends on whether your ancestors were Irish or German:

Are you just starting your own research? Here is "Kev's Genealogy 101", a write-up giving tips and hints that have worked in my own research. I hope they are helpful to you, too!

I'd welcome any contributions you'd care to offer, or to provide links that may be appropriate.
Just write!

-- Kevin Killion

On This Page

Origin of the Name

Two of the classic sources of information on Irish surnames are the books by Rev. Patrick Woulfe and by Edward MacLysaght.

Rev. Patrick Woulfe's book was Irish Names and Surnames, written in 1923. Here's what Woulfe says about our name:

O Cilleain - O Killane, Killane, Killan, Killian, Killion; 'descendant of Cillean' (diminutive of Ceallac); a var. in Clare and Galway of Ó Cillín, q.v.

O Cillin - O Killine, O Killen, Killeen, Killen, Killian, Killion; 'descendant. of Cillín' (a 'pet' diminutive of Ceallac, war); the name of several distinct families in different parts of the country, as Clare, Galway, Mayo, Westmeath, Offaly, Kildare and Down, in all of which it is still extent.

In his book More Irish Families, Edward MacLysaght equates the names Killeen and Killian, and gives their origin as the Irish form Ó Cillín. Here's the complete listing (with bolding added for emphasis):

(O) KILLEEN, Killian

Ó Cillín, anglicized Killeen, usually without the prefix O, belongs both by historical association and by present day location to the west of Ireland, being found in the three Atlantic seaboard counties, Clare, Galway and Mayo. In successive centuries - 1143 (Four Masters), 1585 (Composition Book of Connacht), 1655 (Book of Survey and Distribution - Killeens are recorded as residing at or near Ballykileen which is in the parish of Annagh, Co. Mayo, while more than a century later in 1783 the Galway Wardenship Mss. record Killeens as resident at Ballinrobe in the same county. The surname first occurs as early as A.D. 964 in the person of Cormac O'Killeen, Bishop of Clonmacnois; in 1106 his namesake was archdeacon of that diocese; in 1026 Conell O'Cilline is recorded as succesor of Cronan of Tuamgraney, Co. Clare.

Some families which crossed the Shannon and settled in Co. Westmeath use the form Killian. Woulfe is usually reliable and accurate but I think he might be mistaken in equating Killen with Killeen. Killen is probably simply MacKillen without the prefix. Both these belong chiefly to Antrim, the Irish form being MacCoilín or MacCailin, a galloglass family brought from Scotland by the O'Donnells in the fifteenth century. It is true that the enumerators recorded O'Killin as one of the more numerous Irish names in Co. Down in 1659, but they frequently confused the prefixes O and Mac and it is more probable that the family so described were really MacKillens. In north-east Ulster MacKillen may be confused with MacQuillan (see Irish Families, p. 250).

There were several mediaeval ecclaisiastical dignitaries in Connacht called O'Killeen. In our own time Dr. John Killeen, Bishop of Port Augusta (now Port Pirie), is remembered for his help in combating the "Black & Tan" campaign. Two Belfast men, Rev. Thomas Young Killen (1826-1886) and Rev. William Dore Killen (1806-1902) were notable as leading Presbyterians; also from Co. Antrim was James Bryce Killen (1845-1916), the Fenian and cofounder with Michael Davitt of the Land League; another Fenian was the New York lawyer Dorian Killian; and going back to an earlier insurrection there was John Killen, who was most unjustly hanged in 1803 for his alleged complicity in Robert Emmet's attempt.

Is Spelling Significant?

Today, we take great pride in our names and we take pains to make sure that they are spelled "correctly". Genealogy does not allow such precision. For all practical purposes, Killion, Killian, Kilian and related variations should be taken as indistinguishable.

For poor farmers in 19th century Ireland and earlier, illiteracy was commonplace, and English (and thus Anglicized spellings) was often a second language, after Irish. Church and civil records were often posted by the priest or registrar pretty much as he heard them. Even for successive births within the same family, the surname may be entered in records in several different spellings. Upon immigration into the United States, many of our ancestors also had their names revised in the process, through accident or through intent of either the immigrant or immigration officers.

Thus, don't be surprised if your Killion ancestors turn out to be Killians, or vice versa!

Where in Ireland?

The Killion/Killian name (and other similar variations) is not a terribly common one in Ireland. From the point of view of genealogy, that's extremely convenient. It makes it possible to focus research attention on a smaller area.

The most common 19th century locations for our name are the midland counties of Roscommon, Westmeath, Longford and Offaly (roughly in that order), and also Galway and Mayo.

Griffith's Primary Valuation for Co. Mayo found 3 householders named Killion, but no Killian's. (There was one Killen, and 69 Killeen's.)

The name "Killen" is also found in counties Donegal, Antrim, Down, Kildare and Tyrone.

This map shows the mid-19th century distribution of the Killi*n name in Co. Roscommon, which appears to be the county where our name was most prevalent.

Click to see a full-size view, and then use your browser's Back button to get back here.

National Archives of Ireland

The National Archives of Ireland provides a search page leading to information primarily on convictions leading to a sentence of transportation to Australia. Here are Killion/Killian entries:

Famine Era

The multi-volume "Famine Immigrants" collects passenger lists from ships that sailed during the Famine years. Here are Killion's that are listed on those sailings. (Apologies to any Killians reading this; when I copied this some time ago I only recorded the "-ion" entries.) Of course, be aware that sources like this cannot be considered flawless, perfectly accurate or complete.

The Illustrated London News of January 19, 1850 carried this story, written by a journalist traveling in Co. Galway:


"At Carihaken the levellers have been at work, and tumbled down eighteen houses. In one of them dwelt John Killian, who stood by me while I made the accompanying sketch of the remains of his dwelling. He told me that he and his fathers before him had owned this now ruined cabin for ages, and that he had paid £4 a year for four acres of ground. He owed no rent: before it was due, the landlord's drivers cut down his crops, carried them off, gave him no account of the proceeds, and then tumbled his house. The hut made against the end wall of a former habitation was not likely to remain, as a decree had gone forth entirely to clear the place. The old man also told me that his son having cut down, on the spot that was once his own garden, a few sticks to make him a shelter, was taken up, prosecuted, and sentenced to two month's confinement for destroying trees and making waste of the property."

Searching for Ancestors

This section includes details about Killi*ns in Ireland identified as ancestors by present-day researchers. If your Killi*n ancestor came from Ireland, I'd love to add your info to this section!

John Killion
Barnacullen townland, Rahara parish, Co. Roscommon
m. Mary Naughten (from Kiltoom parish) about 1845

For more information, write to Kevin Killion

I am researching descendants of Maurice Killian (1810-1895), who brought his family from Ireland to Cattaraugus Co, NY in 1848. His wife was Bridget (Flood) Killian and their children were Patrick, Margaret, Catherine, Christopher, Bridget, Mary and Daniel.

For more information, write to Quentin Cabell Smith, Arlington, VA

Searching for Joseph M. Killian, Born 1845 in Boston. Parents were John M. Killian and Delia S. Churchill. Also had a brother, Edwin or Edward S. Killian, born 1854, died in Michigan in 1874. May have brothers Thomas F. and Richard A.

For more information, write to Mary Kay Killian

Thomas Killin

THOMAS KILLIN born in or near the market town of Mullingar in the parish of Mullingar around 1787. He was enlisted in the South Cork Militia on 21st February 1809 by Commanding Officer Hayes St. Leger but he volunteered to join the 43rd Regiment of Foot, 2nd Battalion, on 10th May 1809 in Killarney, Co. Kerry. He fought in Spain in the Peninsular Wars and retired to a pension in 1824. He married ELIZABETH NOON from Roscommon and they moved to Congleton Cheshire (where first son James was born), and then to Coventry in Warwickshire. He was a silk weaver by profession. Thomas may have had a brother called William, whose son John was born in Dublin around 1819.

In his pension records from the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, his name is given as THOMAS KILLEN (although his signature appears to be Killin) and he appears in Muster Rolls under a variety of spellings, such as Killings, etc. Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Contact email:

For more information, write to Suzanne

Patrick Killion born 1850 (Turrock towland) to Thomas Killion and Mary Lawlor. Patrick may have had a sister Margaret born in 1852. Patrick married Bridgit Mulligan from Carrowntarrif in 1879 in Dysart Parrish in Turrock. They had a son Thomas that was born in 1880 born in Townlad of Turrock.

For more information, write to Hank Killion

Thomas Killian: farmer from County Mayo
Wife: Winifred Killian
Daughter: Kathryn Killian (b April 6, 1878)
Kathryn immigrated to Moorestown, N.J and married William Smith II in June 1898

For more information, write to

Thomas Killion
Co. Roscommon

Son: Michael Killion
Co. Roscommon

Information is from Bill Curtin

Patrick Killion & Elizabeth Davis
Co. Roscommon


For more information, write to Mary Jo Solomon (email address updates, October 2011)

John Quinn & Mary Killian
County and parish unknown

For more information, write to Carol Miner

William Killion
b. 1788, d. 1874
m. Anna Kelly

Son: Patrick Killion

Son: Matthew Killion

Mary Killian McCaffery
Married to John McCaffery of Ireland
Son: Patrick McCaffery, Sr., came to the U.S. circa 1875

Joseph John Killion, aka Jake Kilrain

Jake Kilrain, famous boxer, fought 75 rounds with John L. Sullivan in 1889. He was born Joseph John Killion in Greenport, Columbia Co. NY on Feb 9, 1859. He died Dec 22, 1937 in Quincy, Mass. His death certificate states that he married Elizabeth M. Hoar, and that his father's name was John. M. Killian, born in Ireland.

For more information, write to Tracy Reinhardt, Tom Glassel, or Susan Kilrain

Michael KILLIAN (also spelled Killion)
married to Catherine, born Oct. 1823 in Ireland, emigrated in 1843 to US
As of 1900, Catherine was a widow, mother of 5 children, 4 still living

Daughter Susan KILLIAN (born Feb 1848, Rhode Island) married William BERGIN or BERGEN (born May 1842, Ireland) circa 1872 and they had 7 children:

Thomas Bernard Killion
born 1855 in County Roscommon, near Athlone

Stephen Killeen (also used spelling "Killian")
Married in 1833 to Cecily (or Sisly) Flynn
Parish of Killalaghton, Diosese of Clonfent, Co. Galway
Children, all baptised at Parish of Cappatagle, Co. Galway:

Emigrated C. 1857-59

For more information, write to Sheila Burke or go to her website

William Killeen
m Mary Murphy

The sons emigrated to U S about 1878
For more information, write to Kay Ball

Daniel Killion
b. 1795
Luke Killian
b. 1819
Place: Inchenagh (or "Inchaughban"?), an island in the River Shannon, Rathcline parish, Co. Longford
m. Mary Hanly from Co. Roscommon

For more information, write to Lynn Kennedy
Mary Killian Madden
b. 1860, Newtoncashel, Elfeet, Parish of Rathcline, County Longford
d. Feb 1954
For more information, write to Lynn Kennedy

John Killion
b.1806 Athlone Ireland
Sentenced to Life (Transportation, 10 years) for 'assaulting the habitation', March 1, 1833.
married to Jane Feeny (b.1832 Wicklow Ireland)
d.1864 Port Macquarie Australia

For more information, write to Daniel Burke

William Kellion (son of Francis K. and Mary Thompson)
b.circa 1812 Athlone Ireland
Schooled in Dublin
Free settler
Married Elizabeth Ramsay
d.1882 Kempsey Australia

For more information, write to Daniel Burke

William Claffey and Catherine Killion, King's County (Co. Offaly)
Son: Kieran Claffey
married 1861 to Margaret Curley of Co. Roscommon in Dedham, MA

For more information, write to Brent Claffey

Patrick Killeen (or Killen)
b. ca. 1829 in Sligo or Castlebar
possible brothers: Thomas, married to Margaret Hart; John maried to Anne McCoy
married in 1856 at Durham England to Winifred Gray, b. ca. 1833 in Sligo

For more information, write to Peter Killen or visit his website

Send your info to be added to this list!

Miscellany on Irish Killions

This section is to record extra notes about references to Killions and Killians from Ireland.

Kate KILLIAN, born c 1851 Ireland, husband James Flynn

Roscommon Workhouse Deaths

The Roscommon Family History Society provides a listing: "The following information is from the Roscommon town workhouse and lists the deaths of the inmates that took place from the mid 1800's to the end of the century." Two Killi*ns are listed:

Searching for Relatives

This section lists present-day descendents of Irish Killi*n's, and the researchers who are hoping to find them:

Ronald Killion, Daniel Killion, Rita Killion
Children of Edward (b. 27 Oct 1904, Chicago) and Mildred Killion of Chicago
Edward Killion was the son of Michael Killion of Co. Roscommon

Searching: Kevin Killion

Patricia Smith Gorman (Syosset, NY), Mary Smith Quinn, Katherine Smith and John Smith
Children of Philip Smith and Margaret Seery of Chicago
Margaret Seery was the daughter of Patrick Seery and Mary Killion of Co. Roscommon

Searching: Kevin Killion

Send your info to be added to this list!

Sources on Killions in the U.S.

From a website of "Foreign-Born Voters of California, 1872", here are all the Killion/Killian/etc entries:

Kilian, Frederick......46 in 1866......born in Germany......29887
Kilian, Rudolph......31 in 1870......born in Prussia......29888
Killan, John......27 in 1868......born in Ireland......29891
Killan, Michael......40 in 1867......born in Ireland......29892
Killeen, Dennis......22 in 1868......born in Ireland......29895
Killeen, Edward......28 in 1871......born in Ireland......29896
Killeen, James......42 in 1871......born in Ireland......29897
Killeen, Thomas......28 in 1867......born in Ireland......29898
Killen, Hugh......42 in 1872......born in Ireland......29899
Killian, James......30 in 1871......born in Ireland......29905
Killian, Thomas......25 in 1868......born in Ireland......29906
Killien, James......49 in 1867......born in Ireland......29907
Killien, John......22 in 1868......born in Ireland......29908
Killien, John Jackson......35 in 1868......born in Ireland......29909
Killin, Matthew......42 in 1871......born in Ireland......29913
Killion, Frank......30 in 1871......born in Ireland......29914
Killion, Luke......22 in 1870......born in Ireland......29915
Killion, Michael......25 in 1866......born in Ireland......29916
Click on that website shown above for more info.
James Greene runs an extensive website on Killians and Killions in the U.S. and those descended from German ancestors.

Other Irish Killion's/Killian's Today

Killian's Irish Red Ale

Killi*n Placenames



Other Good Sources for Info

Many Killion's are from County Roscommon, so the Leitrim-Roscommon Home Page can be a very valuable source of information. That website carries surnames being researched, lists of townlands, and maps of parishes, baronies and poor law unions. If your ancestors were from either of these two counties, this is a must-see location!

Death records for many Americans is available in the government's Social Security Death Index. Ancestry, Inc., provides this online at their website.

St. Kilian

In Würzburg there is a very nice old bridge across the river Main (pronounced "mine") on which there are twelve statues from different saints. Of course Kilian - as the city-saint - has a good place there. A large view is also available. This modern statue of St. Kilian is beneath the Kilian Dom (church) in Würzburg. St. Kilian is seen portrayed standing in a boat in his journey from Ireland. The ship can also be interpreted as a symbol for the church. A large view is also available.
(These photos and explanations were sent by Ton Killian of Holland. Thanks, Ton!)

St. Kilian was an Irish missionary of the 7th century. Today he is best remembered in Germany, where there are many churches and places named for him. So, there may well be some ancient shared heritage between the Irish Killi*ns and German Killi*ns!

There is an interesting website devoted to St. Kilian (and his hometown of Mullagh in Co. Cavan).

Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia says about St. Kilian:

Kilian of Würzburg, St., bishop and martyr; b. Ireland (according to strong local tradition, at Mullagh, County Cavan, Ireland), c. 640; d. Würzburg,, Germany, July 8, 689 (feast, July 8). According to the older and more trustworthy passio he was already a bishop when he left Ireland with 11 companions and reached the residence of the pagan Thuringian Duke, Gozbert, at Würzburg. Having decided to evangelize this region, he reputedly traveled to Rome for papal approval in autumn 686. The account of this journey and of his meeting with Pope Conon is certainly unhistorical. He converted many in Franconia and Thuringia, including Duke Gozbert, whom he persuaded to separate from Geilana, his brother's widow. In revenge Geilana had Kilian murdered along with two of his fellow missionaries, the priest Coloman (Kolonat) and the deacon Totnan. Their relics were solemnly transferred by Burchard, first bishop of Würzburg, to the new cathedral on July 8, 752, and are now enshrined in the Neumünster, erected over the spot where, according to tradition, the martyrdom took place. Much controversy has centered on the dating and reliability of the Passio Prima and Secunda that deal with the saint's life, but A. Bigelmair dates the Passio Prima to 752 and accepts it as historical, though with an accretion of legend.

The new online version of the Catholic Encyclopedia has a lengthier article on St. Kilian.

One researcher studying German Killions, Richard Killion, adds more details about St. Kilian:

This outpost is located across the Main River from Wurzburg, high on a hill with a moat. This installation is known as the Marienburg Fortress and has been refurbished so that it is a marvelous tourist attraction. ... There is a large statue of St. Kilian on the Marienburg Fortress, another large Statue on the old bridge from Wurzburg over the River Main to the Marienburg Fortress, and another Statue of St. Kilian on the Neumunster Church in Wurzburg where the St. Kilian Crypt is located. This is said to be over the location of the martyrdom.

There is a St. Kilian Cathedral in Wurzburg and another St. Killian Cathedral in Heilbron. Both of these structures are beautifully done. There are quite a few Kilians and a lessor number of Killians in modern German cities. When the common men started using last names in the period 1200 to 1300, I suspect that a number of them took the name of their Church for their last names. This is pure speculation of course.

It should also be noted that there are actually two saints known as St. Kilian. The Irish missionary to Würzburg is the better known of the two, but here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia says about the other:

KILIAN of Aubigny, St., Irish hermit in France; d. 670 (feast, Nov. 13). Little is known of the career of Kilian (originally Chillen). He is said to have been returning from a pilgrimage to Rome when he met St. Faro, Bishop of Meaux, who found him a site for a hermitage at Aubigny near Arras. Here Kilian spent the rest of his life and was later venerated as a saint. The same St. Faro was responsible for settling the Irish St. Fiacre in the same part of France.

Here is a link to one more webpage about St. Kilian.


There is an independent movie that may well be of interest to those reading this page, "Kilian's Chronicle". The promo says, "Five centuries before Columbus, a Viking ship was lost on these shores. To find their way home they needed the navigating stone, stolen by Kilian, the Irish slave, who escaped from their ship. This film tells the story of Kilian's flight to freedom and his encounter with the original people of America."

Pamela Berger, the producer of the film, reports that it has now been retitled (darn it!) as "The Magic Stone", and it is now distributed by Amazing Movies (7471 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046, (213) 852-1396).

For more information, click

A famous opera figure is the farmer Kilian in "Der Freischuetz" of Weber.

The most well-known "Killi*n" character on TV is probably that of "Jack Killian", played by Gary Cole, on the television series, "Midnight Caller". There are at least two websites (here and here) devoted to information on that television series, which aired on NBC between 1988 and 1991.

There are many other Killi*n characters from movies and TV. Here are those reported by the Internet Movie Database:

Actor/ActressCharacterName of program or movie
Richard Dean AndersonKillianFallout (1997) (VG)
Stephen BoydKillianKill! Kill! Kill! (1972)
Peter BoyleJ.J. Killian (1989-1991)"Midnight Caller" (1988) TV Series
Charles BronsonJay KillionAssassination (1987)
Charles D. BrownJimm KillianRight to the Heart (1942)
Shawn BrownMokie KillionR.O.T.O.R. (1989)
Gary ColeJack "Nighthawk" Killian"Midnight Caller" (1988) TV Series
Ken CurtisMonsignor KillianLast Hurrah, The (1958)
John DavidsonTerry KillianDallas Cowboys Cheerleaders II (1980) (TV)
Geena DavisWendy Killian"Buffalo Bill" (1983) TV Series
Richard DawsonDamon KillianRunning Man, The (1987)
Kevin DunnTom KillianBonfire of the Vanities, The (1990)
James EdwardsSergeant KillianMen in War (1957)
José FerrerKillianSeduced (1985) (TV)
Glenn FordJim KillianHeaven with a Gun (1969)
David HemblenDr. KillianFly Away Home (1996)
William HillJerry KillianStriptease (1996)
Jack HoltInspector KillianDonovan Affair, The (1929)
Jack HoltKillianSubway Express (1931)
William HopperLal KillianMystery House (1938)
Paul HurstInspector KillianBlackmailer (1936)
Brenda JoyceJenny KillianRight to the Heart (1942)
Tom LaughlinKillianNo Escape (1994)
John LoderCaptain Craig KillianGorilla Man (1942)
Janet MacLachlanLinda KillianKid from Nowhere, The (1982) (TV)
David McFaddenFather KillianLorenzo's Oil (1992)
Darren McGavinPaul KillianBerlin Affair (1970) (TV)
Herb McGillisVictor Killian'Til We Meet Again (1940)
Hugh O'BrianKillianWild Women (1970) (TV)
Katherine PerryJenny KillianWomanpower (1926)
James SikkingMonsignor KillianLast Hurrah, The (1977) (TV)
Claire SkinnerBeth KillianSleepy Hollow (1999)
Hermann SpeelmansWachtmeister KillianHauptmann von Köpenick, Der (1931)
John VernonKillianIt Rained All Night the Day I Left (1980)
Steven WaddingtonKillianSleepy Hollow (1999)
Will WallingJake KillianWomanpower (1926)

Famous Killions

Richard Evans wrote to tell us of a late friend of his, Leo Killion. This Mr. Killion achieved his moment of fame by writing the "Hut Sut Song", which sold millions of records as one of the novelty songs that were quite popular in the 1930s. It was recorded by Les Brown, Kay Kayser and a dozen other orchestras, and was mentioned in the movie "Going My Way" and much later on the TV series "Winds of War". Thanks for the info, Richard!

This page is maintained by Kevin C. Killion.

I'd love to hear from you -- send me a message at

Any tips or comments are very welcomed! I'd love to post any info you'd care to add to this page.

Go to my list of names I'm researching.
Go to my "Genealogy 101" page of tips and hints that have worked for me.
Go to my home page (lots of other subjects).