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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2014

Where did the Irish Behan family come from? What is the Irish Behan family crest and coat of arms? When did the Behan family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Behan family history?

The Irish name Behan comes from the Gaelic name O Beachain, possibly derived from the word "beach," which means "bee." It was also an Anglicized version of the Gaelic personal name Beathán, from "beatha," meaning "life."

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The recording of names in Ireland in the Middle Ages was an inconsistent endeavor at best. The many regional dialects and the predominate illiteracy would have made common surnames appear unrelated to the scribes of the period. Research into the name Behan revealed spelling variations, including Behan, Beehan, Beaghan, O'Behan, Beehan, Beagan, O'Beaghan, O'Behen, Behen and many more.

First found in County Kerry (Irish:Ciarraí) part of the former County Desmond (14th-17th centuries), located in Southwestern Ireland, in Munster province, where they held a family seat from ancient times.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Behan research. Another 186 words(13 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Behan History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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More information is included under the topic Early Behan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Irish families began to immigrate to British North America and the United States in the 18th century, but the greatest influx of Irish immigrants came during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. The earlier settlers came to North America after a great deal of consideration and by paying relatively high fees for their passage. These settlers were primarily drawn by the promise of land. Those later settlers that came during the 1840's were trying to escape the conditions of poverty, starvation, disease, and death that had stricken Ireland. Due to the enormity of their numbers and the late date of their arrival, these immigrants primarily became hired laborers instead of homesteading settlers like their predecessors. An exhaustive search of immigration and passenger lists has revealed many Irish immigrants North America bearing the name Behan:

Behan Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Maria Christiana Behan came to Philadelphia in 1732

Behan Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • James Behan who arrived in New York City in 1822
  • Mrs. Behan, aged 24, landed in America in 1822
  • James Behan, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County,Pennsylvania in 1823
  • James Behan arrived in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in 1823
  • Thomas Behan, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1830


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  • John Harris Behan, American sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral
  • Dominic Behan (1928-1989), Irish novelist, songwriter, playwright and folklorist
  • Brendan Behan (1923-1964), Irish author, playwright, member of the Irish Republican Army
  • John Behan (b. 1938), Irish sculptor
  • Sir John Clifford Valentine Behan (1881-1957), Australian academic, warden of the Trinity College, University of Melbourne and the first Victorian Rhodes Scholar


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  1. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Old Town Books, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-385-3).
  2. MacLysaght, Edward. Mores Irish Familes. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-0126-0).
  3. Johnson, Daniel F. Irish Emigration to New England Through the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick Canada 1841-1849. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield, 1996. Print.
  4. Read, Charles Anderson. The Cabinet of Irish Literature Selections from the Works of the Chief Poets, Orators and Prose Writers of Ireland 4 Volumes. London: Blackie and Son, 1884. Print.
  5. McDonnell, Frances. Emigrants from Ireland to America 1735-1743 A Transcription of the report of the Irish House of Commons into Enforced emigration to America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1331-5).
  6. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  7. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  8. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  9. Woulfe, Rev. Patrick. Irish Names and Surnames Collected and Edited with Explanatory and Historical Notes. Kansas City: Genealogical Foundation, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-940134-403).
  10. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. Print.
  11. ...

The Behan Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Behan Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 25 February 2014 at 18:34.

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