Kean History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The surname Kean originally appeared in Gaelic as "O Cathain" or "Mac Cathain."

Early Origins of the Kean family

The surname Kean was first found in County Londonderry (Irish: Doire), a Northern Irish county also known as Derry, in the province of Ulster. At one time, the areas was named O'Cahan Country.

Early History of the Kean family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kean research. Another 130 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1196, 1617, 1641, 1644, 1819, 1697, 1757, 1714, 1631 and 1709 are included under the topic Early Kean History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Kean Spelling Variations

People who were accounted for by scribes and church officials often had their name recorded many different ways because pronunciation was the only guide those scribes and church officials had to go by. This resulted in the problem of one person's name being recorded under several different variations, creating the illusion of more than one person. Among the many spelling variations of the surname Kean that are preserved in archival documents are Keane, Kane, Kayne, Keaney, Keny, Keyne, O'Kane, O'Keane, O'Cahan, Cahan, Kean, O'Cain, McCloskey, McCluskey, McClaskey and many more.

Early Notables of the Kean family (pre 1700)

Prominent amongst the family at this time was Ruaidri Dall Ó Catháin ( fl. late 16th/early 17th century), an Irish harper and composer; and Echlin O'Kane, one of the most famous of all Irish Harpists. Manus O'Cahan's Regiment of Foot was a body of soldiers, many of who had fought in Europe in the early years of the Thirty Years War. McColla, and a cousin by marriage, Manus O'Cahan, were thrown together in a joint Catholic-Protestant Scots-Irish peace keeping force in 1641. In one Ulster battle, McColla was badly wounded. O'Cahan personally dragged his giant 7-foot-tall (2.1 m) friend...
Another 98 words (7 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Kean Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Kean Ranking

In the United States, the name Kean is the 7,017th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [1] However, in Newfoundland, Canada, the name Kean is ranked the 215th most popular surname with an estimated 200 people with that name. [2]


United States Kean migration to the United States +

Irish families left their homeland in astonishing numbers during the 19th century in search of a better life. Although individual reasons vary, most of these Irish families suffered from extreme poverty, lack of work opportunities, and exorbitant rents in their homeland. Many decided to travel to Australia or North America in the hopes of finding greater opportunities and land. The Irish immigrants that came to North America initially settled on the East Coast, often in major centers such as Boston or New York. But like the many other cultures to settle in North America, the Irish traveled to almost any region they felt held greater promise; as a result, many Irish with gold fever moved all the way out to the Pacific coast. Others before that time left for land along the St. Lawrence River and the Niagara Peninsula, or the Maritimes as United Empire Loyalists, for many Irish did choose to side with the English during the American War of Independence. The earliest wave of Irish migration, however, occurred during the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s. An examination of early immigration and passenger lists has revealed many people bearing the Kean name:

Kean Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Alice Kean, who settled in Virginia in 1623 along with Richard, her husband
Kean Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Henry Kean, who landed in New York, NY in 1812 [3]
  • Robert Kean, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816 [3]
  • Bartholomew Kean, aged 25, who arrived in Mobile, Ala in 1854 [3]
  • Daniel, Dennis, Henry, James, Patrick, Thomas, and William Kean, all, who arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1870
Kean Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Mr. Harry Kean, (b. 1869), aged 35, Cornish miner from travelling aboard the ship "New York" arriving at Ellis Island, New York, New York on 15th October 1904 en route to Dlamar, Idaho, USA [4]

Canada Kean migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Kean Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Adjt. Kean William U.E. from Pennsylvania, USA who settled in Parr Town [Saint John], New Brunswick c. 1785 was an Adjutant for the Pennsylvania Loyalists [5]
Kean Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Edward Kean, aged 30, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Neptune" in 1833
  • Patrick Kean, aged 28, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Neptune" in 1833
  • Mr. Alexander Kean, aged 35 who immigrated to Canada, arriving at the Grosse Isle Quarantine Station in Quebec aboard the ship "Triton" departing from the port of Liverpool, England but died on Grosse Isle In July 1847 [6]
  • Mr. Denis Kean, aged 35 who immigrated to Canada, arriving at the Grosse Isle Quarantine Station in Quebec aboard the ship "Erin's Queen" departing from the port of Liverpool, England but died on Grosse Isle In August 1847 [6]
  • Miss. Ann Kean, aged 1 who was emigrating through Grosse Isle Quarantine Station, Quebec aboard the ship "New York Packet" departing 24th April 1847 from Liverpool, England; the ship arrived on 29th June 1847 but she died on board [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Kean Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century
  • Mr. Joseph Kean, (b. 1870), aged 31, Cornish miner from St. Austell, Cornwall, UK travelling aboard the ship "Campania" arriving at Ellis Island, New York, New York on 24th August 1901 en route to British Columbia, Canada [4]

Australia Kean migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Kean Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Miss Catherine Kean, (b. 1787), aged 27, English servant who was convicted in Middlesex, England for 14 years for coining, transported aboard the "Broxbournebury" in January 1814, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [8]
  • Mr. William Kean, English convict who was convicted in Surrey, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Canada" on 23rd April 1819, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [9]
  • Miss Margaret Kean, (Taylor), Scottish convict who was convicted in Glasgow, Scotland for 14 years, transported aboard the "Earl of Liverpool" in December 1830, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [10]
  • Miss Martha Kean, (Riggan), Scottish convict who was convicted in Glasgow, Scotland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Earl of Liverpool" in December 1830, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [10]
  • Mr. John Kean, British Convict who was convicted in Stirling, Scotland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Asia" on 5th November 1835, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land)1836 [11]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Kean migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Kean Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James Kean, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Flying Mist" arriving in Bluff, South Island, New Zealand on 25th August 1862, the boat sank whilst waiting in port. [12]
  • Ellen Kean, aged 19, a domestic servant, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Durham" in 1873
  • Margaret Kean, aged 17, a domestic servant, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Durham" in 1873
  • Donald Kean, aged 30, a labourer, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Douglas" in 1873
  • Margaret Kean, aged 25, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Douglas" in 1873
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Kean (post 1700) +

  • Laurel Kean (b. 1963), American LPGA professional golfer
  • Lanny Neal Kean Jr. (1960-2009), American professional wrestler
  • Jane Kean (b. 1924), American actress
  • Robert Winthrop Kean (1893-1980), American Republican politician in the U.S. House of Representatives for New Jersey [13]
  • Lieutenant-General William Benjamin Kean (1897-1981), American Commanding General 5th Army (1952-1954) [14]
  • Thomas Kean Sr. (b. 1935), American politician; former Governor of New Jersey; chairman the 9/11 Commission
  • John Kean (1756-1795), American politician, Delegate to Continental Congress from South Carolina, 1785-87 [15]
  • James Kean, American Democratic Party politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Washington 8th District, 1988 [15]
  • Hamilton Fish Kean (1862-1941), American Republican politician, Chair of Union County Republican Party, 1900; Member of New Jersey Republican State Committee, 1905-19 [15]
  • George A. Kean, American politician, Mayor of Cumberland, Maryland, 1908-10 [15]
  • ... (Another 22 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Hood
  • Mr. Albert A Kean (b. 1917), English Petty Officer Telegraphist serving for the Royal Navy from Workington, Cumberland, England, who sailed into battle and died in the sinking [16]
SS Newfoundland
  • Mr. J.B. Kean, Newfoundlander from Wesleyville, who on the 30th March 1914 he was part of the Seal Crew of the "SS Newfoundland" leaving the ship to intercept the Stephano which took him to the hunting grounds, he disembarked to begin sealing, but was caught in a thickening storm, attempting to return to the Newfoundland he and the 132 crew made camp for two days the sealers were stranded on the ice in a blizzard attempting to return to the ship, he survived
  • Mr. Westbury Kean (b. 1886), Newfoundlander from Flowers Island, who on the 30th March 1914 he was part of the Seal Crew of the "SS Newfoundland" leaving the ship to intercept the Stephano which took him to the hunting grounds, he disembarked to begin sealing, but was caught in a thickening storm, attempting to return to the Newfoundland he and the 132 crew made camp for two days the sealers were stranded on the ice in a blizzard attempting to return to the ship, he survived
  • Mr. Eli Kean (1893-1914), Newfoundlander from Pound Cove, who on the 30th March 1914 he was part of the Seal Crew of the "SS Newfoundland" leaving the ship to intercept the Stephano which took him to the hunting grounds, he disembarked to begin sealing, but was caught in a thickening storm, attempting to return to the Newfoundland he and the 132 crew made camp for two days the sealers were stranded on the ice in a blizzard attempting to return to the ship, he died during this time
  • Mr. Percy Kean (1886-1914), Newfoundlander from Valleyfield, who on the 30th March 1914 he was part of the Seal Crew of the "SS Newfoundland" leaving the ship to intercept the Stephano which took him to the hunting grounds, he disembarked to begin sealing, but was caught in a thickening storm, attempting to return to the Newfoundland he and the 132 crew made camp for two days the sealers were stranded on the ice in a blizzard attempting to return to the ship, he died during this time


The Kean Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Felis demulcta mitis
Motto Translation: A stroked cat is gentle.


  1. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  2. ^ The order of Common Surnames in 1955 in Newfoundland retrieved on 20th October 2021 (retrieved from Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland by E.R. Seary corrected edition ISBN 0-7735-1782-0)
  3. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  4. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 3rd May 2018). Retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/emigration_ellis_island_1892_on.pdf
  5. ^ Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  6. ^ Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 36)
  7. ^ Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 81)
  8. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 3rd November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/broxbournebury
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 9th December 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/canada
  10. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 20th August 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/earl-of-liverpool
  11. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 28th January 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/asia/1835
  12. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  13. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2013, March 19) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  14. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2012, March 30) William Kean. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Kean/William_Benjamin/USA.html
  15. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 6) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  16. ^ H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: Crew Information - H.M.S. Hood Rolls of Honour, Men Lost in the Sinking of H.M.S. Hood, 24th May 1941. (Retrieved 2016, July 15) . Retrieved from http://www.hmshood.com/crew/memorial/roh_24may41.htm


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