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

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

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


Pronunciation, rather than spelling, guided scribes and church officials when recording names during the Middle Ages. This practice often resulted in one person's name being recorded under several different spellings. Numerous spelling variations of the surname Keeney are preserved in these old documents. The various spellings of the name that were found 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 Keeney research. Another 259 words(18 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1196, 1617, 1641, 1644 and 1819 are included under the topic Early Keeney History in all our PDF Extended History products.


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


The 19th century saw a great wave of Irish families leaving Ireland for the distant shores of North America and Australia. These families often left their homeland hungry, penniless, and destitute do to the policies of England. Those Irish immigrants that survived the long sea passage initially settled on the eastern seaboard of the continent. Some, however, moved north to a then infant Canada as United Empire Loyalists after ironically serving with the English in the American War of Independence. Others that remained in America later joined the westward migration in search of land. The greatest influx of Irish immigrants, though, came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Thousands left Ireland at this time for North America, and those who arrived were immediately put to work building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. In fact, the foundations of today's powerful nations of the United Sates and Canada were to a larger degree built by the Irish. Archival documents indicate that members of the Keeney family relocated to North American shores quite early:

Keeney Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • John Keeney, who landed in Charleston, South Carolina in 1832
  • Pat Keeney, aged 48, arrived in New York in 1854
  • Peter Keeney, aged 18, landed in New York in 1854
  • Cath Keeney, aged 15, arrived in New York in 1854


  • Barnaby Conrad Keeney (1914-1980), American president of Brown University from 1955 to 1966
  • Philip Olin Keeney (1891-1962), and his wife, Mary Jane Keeney, were American librarians who became part of the Silvermaster spy ring in the 1940s
  • Bradford Keeney (b. 1951), American psychotherapist, ethnographer, and cybernetician
  • Shelley Keeney (b. 1979), American state representative from the U.S. state of Missouri
  • Russell Watson Keeney (1897-1958), U.S. Representative from Illinois
  • H F Keeney, American passenger from Los Angeles, California, USA, who flew aboard American Airlines Flight 191 and died in the crash on May 25, 1979


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. McDonnell, Frances. Emigrants from Ireland to America 1735-1743 A Transcription of the report of the Irish House of Commons into Enforced emigration to America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1331-5).
  2. 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.
  3. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of Ireland. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1969. Print.
  4. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  5. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  6. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  7. Hickey, D.J. and J.E. Doherty. A New Dictionary of Irish History form 1800 2nd Edition. Dublin: Gil & MacMillian, 2003. Print.
  8. Land Owners in Ireland. Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1203-3).
  9. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  10. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1970. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  11. ...

The Keeney Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Keeney 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 13 November 2014 at 16:21.

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