Keens History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Today's Irish surnames are underpinned by a multitude of rich histories. The name Keens originally appeared in Gaelic as O Cathain.

Early Origins of the Keens family

The surname Keens was first found in Derry, where the name literally meant 'Cathan's Son.' "This name may be rendered 'warrior'(cath, 'a battle'). The O'Cathains, now O'Kanes, were of the race of Eoghan, who was son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, Monarch of Ireland, who died A.D. 406." [1]

Saint Cainner or Cannera (d. 530?), appears in the martyrology of Tamlacht and other ancient lists of Irish saints on 28 Jan. "According to Colgan, she was born of noble parents in the district of Bentraighe (Bantry) in South Munster. " [2]

We would be remiss if we did not mention the English and Welsh origins of the name. In England, Yorkshire was a popular location for the family. The Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 included: Johannes Cayne, Kirkby Overblow; and Johannes Cayne, Knaresborough. [3]

"Mauritius de Cadomo held lands in Barony, Devonshire, in 1083. William de Cadomo occurs in Norfolk, Walter de Cadomo in Norfolk, holding great estates, 1086. Renebald de Caen occurs in 1130 (Rot. Pip.). The family of De Caen, Caan, &c., is often mentioned later. In Normandy it occurs in the 12th cent. very frequently." [4]

In Wales, "Rhys Cain (16th cent.), was a Welsh poet of the latter part of the sixteenth century, born at Trawsfynydd in Merionethshire, a village on the river Cain, whence he took his surname." [2]

Early History of the Keens family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Keens research. Another 147 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1196 and 1672 are included under the topic Early Keens History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Keens Spelling Variations

The Middle Ages saw a great number of spelling variations for surnames common to the Irish landscape. One reason for these variations is the fact that surnames were not rigidly fixed by this period. The following variations for the name Keens were encountered in the archives: Cain, Caine, Kane, Kain, Cahan, O'Cahan, Kean, Keane, O'Keane, Ceane, Cean, Kahan, O'Kean, O'Kane, O'Kaine, Kaine, Keann, Cainn, Cainne, Kainn, Cahann, O'Cain and many more.

Early Notables of the Keens family (pre 1700)

Another 42 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Keens Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Keens migration to the United States +

In the 19th century, thousands of Irish left their English-occupied homeland for North America. Like most new world settlers, the Irish initially settled on the eastern shores of the continent but began to move westward with the promise of owning land. The height of this Irish migration came during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. With apparently nothing to lose, Irish people left on ships bound for North America and Australia. Unfortunately a great many of these passengers lost their lives - the only thing many had left - to disease, starvation, and accidents during the long and dangerous journey. Those who did safely arrive in "the land of opportunities" were often used for the hard labor of building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. The Irish were critical to the quick development of the infrastructure of the United States and Canada. Passenger and immigration lists indicate that members of the Keens family came to North America quite early:

Keens Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • William Keens, who landed in Virginia in 1704 [5]

Australia Keens migration to Australia +

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

Keens Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Austin (John) Keens (Keenan), British Convict who was convicted in Liverpool, England for 10 years, transported aboard the "Asiatic" on 26th May 1843, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [6]

Contemporary Notables of the name Keens (post 1700) +

  • Edward Keens, American politician, U.S. Consular Agent in Scarborough, 1897-98 [7]
  • Sir Thomas Keens (1870-1953), British Liberal later National Liberal politician and accountant, born in Luton, Bedfordshire, Member of Parliament for Aylesbury (1923-1924)

HMS Hood
  • Mr. Eric G Keens (b. 1924), English Boy Telegraphist serving for the Royal Navy from Havant, Hampshire, England, who sailed into battle and died in the HMS Hood sinking [8]

  1. ^ Moore, A.W., Manx Names. London: Elliot Stock, 62 Paternoster Row, 1906. Print
  2. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  3. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  4. ^ The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th July 2020). Retrieved from
  7. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 7) . Retrieved from
  8. ^ H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: Crew Information - H.M.S. Hood Rolls of Honour, Men Lost in the Sinking of H.M.S. Hood, 24th May 1941. (Retrieved 2016, July 15) . Retrieved from on Facebook