Keeffe History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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 Keeffe originally appeared in Gaelic as "O Caoimh," which is derived from the word "caomh," which means "gentle."

Early Origins of the Keeffe family

The surname Keeffe 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.

"In ancient times the O'Keeffes were Marshals and chief military leaders of Desmond. They possessed several castles, and were styled Princes of Fermoy. The principal county for the Keeffes and O'Keefes at present is Cork." [1]

Early History of the Keeffe family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Keeffe research. Another 116 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1655, 1640, 1691, 1703, 1670, 1740, 1747, 1833, 1778 and 1791 are included under the topic Early Keeffe History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Keeffe Spelling Variations

Up until the mid twentieth century, surnames throughout the world were recorded by scribes with little regard of spelling. They recorded the name as they thought the surname should be spelt. Accordingly, research into the name Keeffe revealed spelling variations, including O'Keeffe, O'Keefe, Keefe, Keeffe, Keefer, Keiffe and others.

Early Notables of the Keeffe family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family name at this time was Constantine O'Keeffe (born c. 1670) who was admitted to the French aristocracy in 1740 on the basis of...
Another 27 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Keeffe Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Keeffe migration to the United States +

North America accepted thousands of Irish immigrants during the 19th century as their homeland suffered under foreign imperialistic rule. Although settlers from the early portion of the century came to North America by choice in search of land, by far the largest influx of Irish immigrants came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Many of these Irish families left the country destitute and in some cases suffering from disease. However, those who survived the long ocean voyage were especially vital to the development of industry in the United States and what would become known as Canada. Research of immigration and passenger lists has shown many early immigrants bearing the name Keeffe:

Keeffe Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Daniel, Denis, James, John, Joseph, Michael, and Patrick Keeffe, all, who arrived in Philadelphia during the same period
  • Walter Keeffe, who landed in Maryland in 1844 [2]
  • Margaret Keeffe, aged 50, who landed in New York, NY in 1849 [2]
  • Nano Keeffe, aged 23, who landed in New York, NY in 1849 [2]
  • Norry Keeffe, aged 19, who arrived in New York, NY in 1849 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Keeffe migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Keeffe Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Edward Keeffe, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1831
  • Edmund Keeffe, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1833
  • Denis Keeffe, aged 20, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1837 aboard the brig "Thetis" from Cork, Ireland
  • Daniel Keeffe, aged 15, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1837 aboard the brig "Thetis" from Cork, Ireland
  • Margaret Keeffe, aged 21, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1837 aboard the brig "Thetis" from Cork, Ireland
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Keeffe migration to Australia +

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

Keeffe Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Honora Keeffe, aged 26, a farm servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1859 aboard the ship "North"
  • Sarah Keeffe, aged 2, who arrived in South Australia in 1859 aboard the ship "North"

New Zealand Keeffe 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:

Keeffe Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • J Keeffe, who landed in Auckland, New Zealand in 1842
  • Miss Ellen Keeffe, (b. 1842), aged 24, British domestic servant travelling from Gravesend, UK aboard the ship "Bombay" arriving in Lyttelton, South Island, New Zealand on 18th August 1866 [3]
  • Denis Keeffe, aged 17, a farm labourer, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Zealandia" in 1879

Contemporary Notables of the name Keeffe (post 1700) +

  • Lachlan Keeffe (b. 1990), Australian rules footballer from Queensland
  • James Bernard "Jim" Keeffe (1919-1988), Australian politician from Atherton, Queensland, Senator for Queensland (1965 to 1983)
  • Barrie Colin Keeffe (b. 1945), English dramatist and screenwriter, best known for his screenplay "The Long Good Friday" (1981)


  1. ^ Matheson, Robert E., Special Report on Surnames in Ireland with Notes as to Numeric Strength, Derivation, Ethnology, and Distribution. Dublin: Alexander Thom & Co., 1894. Print
  2. ^ 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)
  3. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


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