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

Where did the Irish Keene family come from? What is the Irish Keene family crest and coat of arms? When did the Keene family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Keene family history?

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


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.

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.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Keene research. Another 259 words (18 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1196, 1617, 1641, 1644 and 1819 are included under the topic Early Keene History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 267 words (19 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Keene Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


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
  • Eliza Keene, who landed in New England in 1638
  • John Keene, who landed in Massachusetts in 1638
  • Josias Keene, who arrived in New England in 1638
  • Sara Keene, who arrived in New England in 1638

Keene Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Jacob Keene, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1755

Keene Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Peter Keene, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816

Keene Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • Mary Keene, who arrived in Quebec in 1826

Keene Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • George Keene arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Asiatic" in 1849
  • Winnifred Keene, aged 22, a house servant, arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Sir Edward Parry"

Keene Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

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


  • 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
  • Tommy Keene (b. 1958), American singer-songwriter
  • 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
  • Donald Lawrence Keene (b. 1922), American-born, Japanese scholar, teacher, writer and translator of Japanese literature
  • Foxhall Parker Keene (1867-1941), American Thoroughbred race horse owner and breeder, Olympic gold medalist in polo



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.


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  1. Hickey, D.J. and J.E. Doherty. A New Dictionary of Irish History form 1800 2nd Edition. Dublin: Gil & MacMillian, 2003. Print.
  2. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1970. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  3. Harris, Ruth-Ann and B. Emer O'Keefe. The Search for Missing Friends Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in the Boston Pilot Volume II 1851-1853. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1991. Print.
  4. Fitzgerald, Thomas W. Ireland and Her People A Library of Irish Biography 5 Volumes. Chicago: Fitzgerald. Print.
  5. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  6. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  7. Leyburn, James Graham. The Scotch-Irish A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0807842591).
  8. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  9. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  10. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  11. ...

The Keene Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Keene 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 29 March 2015 at 13:12.

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