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

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 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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  • Mike Keefe (b. 1946), American winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning
  • John Keefe (b. 1979), American film and television actor, known for his work on Proof (2005), Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005) and Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave (2005)
  • 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
  • Mary S. Keefe, American state legislator serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives
  • Mary Doyle Keefe (1923-2015), American telephoner operator and part time model who posed for the iconic Norman Rockwell "Rosie the Riveter" painting that became the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943
  • Adam Thomas Keefe (b. 1970), retired American basketball player who played from 1992 to 2003
  • Timothy John "Tim" Keefe (1857-1933), nicknamed "Smiling Tim" and "Sir Timothy", an American Major League Baseball pitcher who played from 1880 to 1893
  • Harry Keefe Jr., American co-founder of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc., an investment banking firm headquartered in New York City in 1962
  • Rob Keefe, American current head coach of the Orlando Predators
  • Robert Francis "Bobby" Keefe, American Major League Baseball player who played from 1907 to 1912

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  1. 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).
  2. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  3. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  4. Somerset Fry, Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry. A History of Ireland. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993. Print. (ISBN 1-56619-215-3).
  5. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  6. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
  7. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  8. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Old Town Books, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-385-3).
  9. Hickey, D.J. and J.E. Doherty. A New Dictionary of Irish History form 1800 2nd Edition. Dublin: Gil & MacMillian, 2003. Print.
  10. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. 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 6 June 2015 at 15:30.

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