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


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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The surname Keefe was 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.

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.


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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 United States in the 17th Century


  • Elizabeth Keefe, who arrived in Maryland in 1678

Keefe Settlers in 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 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


Keefe Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Ellen Keefe, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1813
  • Richard Keefe, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1829
  • Timothy Keefe, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1832
  • Joanna Keefe, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1832
  • Daniel Keefe, aged 24, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the barque "Independence" from Kinsale


Keefe Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • Michael Keefe, English convict from Lancaster, who was transported aboard the "Albion" on May 29, 1828, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • Mary Keefe, English convict from Middlesex, who was transported aboard the "Amphitrite" on August 21, 1833, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • Michael Keefe, Canadian convict from Fredericton, New Brunswick, who was transported aboard the "Anson" on September 23, 1843, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia
  • Nicholas Keefe arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Abberton" in 1846
  • Michael Keefe, aged 27, a shepherd, arrived in South Australia in 1851 aboard the ship "Oregon"


Keefe Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • John Keefe arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Armstrong" in 1865
  • Ellen Keefe arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Armstrong" in 1865
  • Patrick Keefe arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Armstrong" in 1865
  • Julia Keefe arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Armstrong" in 1865
  • Michael Keefe arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Armstrong" in 1865


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  • Dylan Keefe (b. 1970), American bassist and one of the founding members of the alternative rock band Marcy Playground
  • Emmett Keefe (1893-1965), American NFL football guard
  • Kristin Klein Keefe (b. 1970), American volleyball player, member of the USA National Women's Team at the 1996 Summer Olympics
  • Peter Eugene Keefe (1952-2010), American television producer best known for creating the popular series Voltron
  • Daniel Joseph Keefe (1852-1929), American founder and the first president of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA)
  • Jim Keefe (b. 1965), American comic artist who contributes original art and stories to the Flash Gordon comic strip
  • P. J. Keefe, American head football coach for the Middlebury College Panthers football team from 1910 through 1912
  • Frank Bateman Keefe (1887-1952), American politician, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Wisconsin (1939-1951)
  • Brian Keefe, American assistant coach for the New York Knicks
  • Robert Francis "Bobby" Keefe, American Major League Baseball player who played from 1907 to 1912

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  1. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  2. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  3. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of Ireland. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1969. Print.
  4. MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland 3rd Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1978. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2278-0).
  5. 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).
  6. Donovan, George Francis. The Pre-Revolutionary Irish in Massachusetts 1620-1775. Menasha, WI: Geroge Banta Publsihing Co., 1932. Print.
  7. 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.
  8. Rasmussen, Louis J. . San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists 4 Volumes Colma, California 1965 Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1978. Print.
  9. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  10. 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).
  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 16 February 2016 at 15:22.

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