Keene History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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

Early Origins of the Keene family

The surname Keene 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 Keene family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Keene 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 Keene History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Keene Spelling Variations

A name was often recorded during the Middle Ages under several different spelling variations during the life of its bearer because literacy was rare there was no real push to clearly define any of the languages found in the British Isles at that time. Variations found of the name Keene include 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 Keene 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 Keene Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Keene Ranking

In the United States, the name Keene is the 1,778th most popular surname with an estimated 17,409 people with that name. [1]

United States Keene migration to the United States +

Death and immigration greatly reduced Ireland's population in the 19th century. For the native Irish people poverty, hunger, and racial prejudice was common. Therefore, thousands left their homeland to seek opportunity in North America. Those who survived the journey and the quarantine camps to which they arrived, were instrumental towards building the strong developing nations of the United States and the future Canada. By far, the largest influx of Irish settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. These were employed as construction or factory workers. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has shown early immigrants bearing the name Keene:

Keene Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Abraham Keene, who landed in Virginia in 1637 [2]
  • Eliza Keene, who landed in New England in 1638 [2]
  • John Keene, who landed in Massachusetts in 1638 [2]
  • Josias Keene, who arrived in New England in 1638 [2]
  • Sara Keene, who arrived in New England in 1638 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Keene Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Jacob Keene, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1755 [2]
Keene Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Peter Keene, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816 [2]
  • Mr. Charles Keene, (b. 1867), aged 25, Cornish teamster travelling aboard the ship "Alaska" arriving at Ellis Island, New York on 10th October 1892 en route to Pennsylvania, USA [3]
Keene Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Mr. William Keene, (b. 1855), aged 50, American labourer travelling aboard the ship "Campania" arriving at Ellis Island, New York in 1905 en route to Sacramento, California, USA [3]

Canada Keene migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Keene Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Mary Keene, who arrived in Quebec in 1826

Australia Keene migration to Australia +

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

Keene Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Daniel Keene, Irish convict who was convicted in Limerick, Ireland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Blenheim" on 19th May 1839, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land), he died in 1839 shortly after arriving [4]
  • George Keene, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Asiatic" in 1849 [5]
  • Winnifred Keene, aged 22, a house servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Sir Edward Parry" [6]

New Zealand Keene 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:

Keene Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Keene, aged 21, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Soukar" in 1874
  • M. Keene, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Zealandia" in 1878

Contemporary Notables of the name Keene (post 1700) +

  • Donald Lawrence Keene (1922-2019), American-born, Japanese scholar, historian, teacher, writer and translator of Japanese literature, University Professor Emeritus and Shincho Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature at Columbia University
  • Tommy Keene (1958-2017), American singer-songwriter
  • Christopher Keene (1946-1995), American conductor
  • Tom Keene (1896-1963), born George Duryea, an American actor, known primarily for his work on Westerns
  • David A. Keene (b. 1945), American President of the National Rifle Association
  • Elodie Keene (b. 1949), American three-time Primetime Emmy Award winning film/television director, producer and editor
  • Brian Keene (b. 1967), American two-time Bram Stoker Award winning author, primarily of horror, crime fiction, and comic books
  • Carolyn Keene, American pseudonym of various authors of the Nancy Drew mystery stories
  • James Robert Keene (1838-1913), English-born, American Wall Street stockbroker and a major Thoroughbred race horse owner and breeder
  • Foxhall Parker Keene (1867-1941), American Thoroughbred race horse owner and breeder, Olympic gold medalist in polo
  • ... (Another 26 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

The Keene 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. ^
  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. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 3rd May 2018). Retrieved from
  4. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 15th October 2020). Retrieved from
  5. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The ASIATIC 1849. Retrieved from
  6. ^ South Australian Register Monday 27th March 1854. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Sir Edward Parry 1854. Retrieved on Facebook
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