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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2016


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 surname Behan was 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.

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.


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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 United States in the 18th Century


  • Maria Christiana Behan came to Philadelphia in 1732

Behan Settlers in 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


Behan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • William Behan, aged 23, a labourer, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Dilharree" in 1875

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  • William James Behan (1840-1928), American Republican politician, Mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, 1882-84; Delegate to Republican National Convention from Louisiana, 1896, 1900, 1908; Louisiana Republican State Chair, 1900-12
  • Thomas W. Behan, American Republican politician, Mayor of Binghamton, New York, 1936-37; Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from New York, 1948
  • Margaret Behan, American Democrat politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from New York, 1920; Member of New York Democratic State Committee, 1930
  • Louis Joseph Behan (b. 1876), American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Illinois, 1936
  • Joseph C. Behan Jr., American Democrat politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from New York, 1932, 1936
  • John L. Behan, American politician, Member of New York State Assembly, 1979-95
  • Edward F. Behan, American politician, Mayor of Jackson, Michigan, 1946-47
  • John Harris Behan, American sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral
  • John Behan (b. 1938), Irish sculptor
  • Brendan Behan (1923-1964), Irish author, playwright, member of the Irish Republican Army

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  1. 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).
  2. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Old Town Books, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-385-3).
  3. MacLysaght, Edward. Mores Irish Familes. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-0126-0).
  4. 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.
  5. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  6. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  7. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  8. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  9. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  10. Land Owners in Ireland. Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1203-3).
  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 29 January 2016 at 09:20.

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