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

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

All Irish surnames have underlying meanings that can be traced back to their fullest points when the names first appeared in a Gaelic form. The name Keefe originally appeared in Gaelic as "O Caoimh," which is derived from the word "caomh," which means "gentle."

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Within archives, many different spelling variations exist for the surname Keefe. Ancient scribes and church officials recorded names as they were pronounced, often resulting in the name of the single person being recorded under several different spellings. Different spellings that were found include O'Keeffe, O'Keefe, Keefe, Keeffe, Keefer, Keiffe and others.

First found in County Cork (Irish: Corcaigh) the ancient Kingdom of Deis Muin (Desmond), located on the southwest coast of Ireland in the province of Munster, where they held a family seat from ancient times.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Keefe research. Another 250 words(18 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1640, 1655, 1670, 1691, 1703, 1740, 1747, 1778, 1791, and 1833 are included under the topic Early Keefe History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 53 words(4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Keefe Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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In the 18th and 19th centuries hundreds of thousands of Irish people immigrated to North American shores. The early settlers were enticed by the promise of their own land, but they were moderately well off in Ireland when they decided to emigrate. Therefore, they were merely carrying out a long and carefully thought out decision. The 1840s saw the emergence of a very different trend: thousands of extremely desperate people crammed into passenger boats hoping to find any type of opportunity. The Irish of this decade had seen their homeland severely stricken by crop failures which resulted in widespread disease and starvation. At whatever time the Irish immigrants came to North America, they were instrumental in the rapid development of the emerging nations of the United States and what would become known as Canada. An exhaustive search of passenger and immigration lists has revealed many persons bearing the name Keefe, or one of its variants:

Keefe Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century


  • Elizabeth Keefe, who arrived in Maryland in 1678

Keefe Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Thomas Keefe, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1765
  • Daniel Keefe, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1766

Keefe Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Henry Keefe, who landed in New York in 1816
  • Michael Keefe, aged 28, landed in Missouri in 1840
  • John Keefe, who landed in Tippecanoe County, Ind in 1842
  • Dennis Keefe, who landed in Tippecanoe County, Ind in 1842
  • Mathew Keefe, aged 28, landed in Mobile County, Ala in 1844


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  • Mike Keefe (b. 1946), American winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning
  • John Keefe (b. 1979), American film and television actor
  • Mr. Arthur Keefe (d. 1912), aged 39, American Third Class passenger from Rahway, New Jersey who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking and was recovered by RMS Oceanic
  • Matthew Keefe (d. 1924), Irish-born, Australian hotel manager, policeman and farmer, mayor of Toowoomba, Queensland in 1900
  • David Edward Keefe (b. 1957), English former professional footballer
  • Michael Edwin Keefe (1844-1933), Canadian politician from Nova Scotia


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  1. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  2. Tepper, Michael Ed & Elizabeth P. Bentley Transcriber. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. Print.
  3. Heraldic Scroll and Map of Family names and Origins of Ireland. Dublin: Mullins. Print.
  4. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  5. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  6. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  7. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  8. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  9. Leyburn, James Graham. The Scotch-Irish A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0807842591).
  10. Rasmussen, Louis J. . San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists 4 Volumes Colma, California 1965 Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1978. Print.
  11. ...

The Keefe Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Keefe 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 14 February 2014 at 10:06.

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