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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

Where did the Irish O'Keefe family come from? What is the Irish O'Keefe family crest and coat of arms? When did the O'Keefe family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the O'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 O'Keefe originally appeared in Gaelic as "O Caoimh," which is derived from the word "caomh," which means "gentle."

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One name was often recorded under several different spellings during the life of its bearer because one must realize that attempting to record a Gaelic name in English is a daunting task at the best of times. Spelling variations revealed in the search for the origin of the O'Keefe family name 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 O'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 O'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 O'Keefe Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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The 18th and 19th centuries saw many Irish families immigrate to North America in search of land and opportunities. The largest influx of Irish immigrants to the United States and British North America came during the 1840s when the Great Potato Famine laid waste to their homeland. Hundreds of thousands left the island in an attempt to escape the starvation and disease it brought. Although the arrival of such a large number of destitute Irish was not welcomed by the established population in the United States and what would become known as Canada at the time, these Irish were an essential element to the rapid development of these growing industrial nations. They filled the demand for the cheap labor needed for the work in factories and in the construction of bridges, roads, canals, and railways. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has revealed many immigrants bearing the name of O'Keefe or one of its variants:

O'Keefe Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • Denis, Michael, Patrick and Thomas O'Keefe all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860

O'Keefe Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • John Peter O'Keefe, aged 30, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the barque "Pallas" from Cork
  • Mary O'Keefe, aged 29, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the barque "Pallas" from Cork
  • John O'Keefe, aged 25, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1837 aboard the barque "Robert Watt" from Cork

O'Keefe Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • John O'Keefe, aged 26, a labourer, arrived in South Australia in 1851 aboard the ship "Oregon"
  • Michael O'Keefe, aged 37, a labourer, arrived in South Australia in 1852 aboard the ship "Phoebe Dunbar"
  • Bridget O'Keefe, aged 27, a dairymaid, arrived in South Australia in 1853 aboard the ship "Epaminondas"
  • Ellen O'Keefe, aged 22, a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Taymouth Castle"
  • Catherine O'Keefe, aged 27, a domestic servant, arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Marion"


O'Keefe Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • Margaret O'Keefe, aged 22, arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Lady Nugent" in 1841
  • Jeremiah O'Keefe, aged 24, a farm labourer, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Assaye" in 1874
  • Michael O'Keefe, aged 25, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Earl Granville" in 1880

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  • Jodi Lyn O'Keefe (b. 1978), American actress and model
  • Kevin O'Keefe (b. 1982), American ice dancer champion
  • Ken O'Keefe (b. 1953), American college football coach
  • Laurence "Larry" O'Keefe (b. 1969), American Tony nominated composer and lyricist for Broadway musicals, film and television
  • Mr. Patrick O'Keefe, aged 22, Irish Third Class passenger from Waterford, who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and survived the sinking in collapsible B
  • John A O'Keefe (1916-2000), NASA planetary scientist and one of the major leaders in developing the American lunar science program
  • Andrew Patrick O'Keefe (b. 1971), Australian TV personality
  • Michael A. O'Keefe (b. 1942), Australian physicist famous for his work in materials science and electron microscopy
  • John Michael O'Keefe (1935-1978), Australian rock and roll singer
  • Sean O'Keefe (b. 1956), Chancellor of Louisiana State University, former Administrator of NASA and former United States Secretary of the Navy

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  • Anna O'Keefe and Samuel Snedden 1867-1975, Six Generation in California by Virginia Perry Culbert.
  • The Baron, the Logger. the Miner and Me by John H. Toole.
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  1. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
  2. 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.
  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. Sullivan, Sir Edward. The Book of Kells 3rd Edition. New York: Crescent Books, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-517-61987-3).
  5. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  6. MacLysaght, Edward. Mores Irish Familes. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-0126-0).
  7. 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).
  8. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  9. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  10. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  11. ...

The O'Keefe Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The O'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 19 May 2015 at 08:48.

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