Show ContentsKillen History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Irish surname Killen originally appeared in Gaelic as O Cillin.

Early Origins of the Killen family

The surname Killen was first found in County Mayo (Irish: Maigh Eo) located on the West coast of the Republic of Ireland in the province of Connacht, where they held territories was at Ballykilleen since early times. This lofty family were the ancient Chiefs of Fingal, Earls of Fingal and Lords Killeen.

Saint Kilian, (also spelled Killian) from the Irish: Cillian, (c. 640-689) was an Irish missionary bishop and the apostle of Franconia. He was born in Mullagh, County Cavan, and is the patron saint of the parish of Tuosist, in County Kerry. Saint Kilian's feast day is July 8th and St. Kilian's Abbey, at Würzburg is named after him.

Today there are two Killeen Castles in Ireland: one located at Dunsany, in County Meath, that dates back to about 1180, but today's structure is a restoration of the 19th century after a fire in 1981. It will include a luxury golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. The second Killeen Castle is a 17th century castle at Killeen, in Castlegar, County Galway.

There are some scanty records of the family in Scotland, but they are rather late: "John Killan in Cleckaime, parish of Lesmahago, 1677, and Robert Killand in Deidwatters, parish of Lesmahago, 1678. This name in Irish is O'Cilleain, descendant of Cillean, a diminutive of Ceallach, an ancient and once very common name." [1]

Early History of the Killen family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Killen research. Another 122 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1180, 1981, 1180 and 1172 are included under the topic Early Killen History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Killen Spelling Variations

Official documents, crafted by early scribes and church officials, primarily contained names that were spelled according to their pronunciation. This lead to the problem of one name being recorded under several different variations, creating an illusion that a single person was many people. Among the many spelling variations of the surname Killen that are preserved in the archival documents of the time are Killeen, Killen, Killion, Killian, Killin, Gilin, Killan, Killoon, O'Killen, McKillen and many more.

Early Notables of the Killen family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Killen Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Killen Ranking

In the United States, the name Killen is the 8,561st most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [2]

United States Killen migration to the United States +

In the 18th and 19th centuries hundreds of thousands of Irish people immigrated to North American shores. The early settlers were enticed by the promise of their own land, but they were moderately well off in Ireland when they decided to emigrate. Therefore, they were merely carrying out a long and carefully thought out decision. The 1840s saw the emergence of a very different trend: thousands of extremely desperate people crammed into passenger boats hoping to find any type of opportunity. The Irish of this decade had seen their homeland severely stricken by crop failures which resulted in widespread disease and starvation. At whatever time the Irish immigrants came to North America, they were instrumental in the rapid development of the emerging nations of the United States and what would become known as Canada. An exhaustive search of passenger and immigration lists has revealed many persons bearing the name Killen, or one of its variants:

Killen Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Killen, who landed in Maryland in 1665 [3]
Killen Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Jenkins Killen, who arrived in America in 1805 [3]
  • Jenkins Killen, who settled in Virginia in 1805
  • Thomas Killen, who landed in New York, NY in 1815 [3]
  • Mary Killen, who landed in Norfolk, Va in 1817 [3]
  • William Killen, who landed in New York, NY in 1817 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Killen 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:

Killen Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Miss Margaret Killen, (b. 1845), aged 23, British domestic servant travelling from London aboard the ship "Light Brigade" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 26th August 1868 [4]

Contemporary Notables of the name Killen (post 1700) +

  • Pat Killen (1861-1891), American boxer who won 56 of his 62 fights
  • William Doyce "Buddy" Killen (1932-2006), American record producer and music publisher
  • Frank Bissell "Lefty" Killen (1870-1939), American Major League Baseball player
  • Edward Killen (d. 1806), American sailor in the 1800s, eponym of the destroyer USS Killen (DD-593)
  • Timothy C. Killen, American Democratic Party politician, Postmaster at Dover, Delaware, 1855-61 [5]
  • Tennis Killen, American Republican politician, Chair of Logan County Republican Party, 1969-73, 1983; Candidate for West Virginia State House of Delegates 16th District, 1984 [5]
  • Marcella Killen, American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Minnesota, 1948 [5]
  • Ernest E. Killen, American politician, U.S. Collector of Internal Revenue for Delaware, 1951 [5]
  • Carson K. Killen, American Democratic Party politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Louisiana 8th District, 1986 [5]
  • William Wilson Killen (1860-1939), Irish-born, Australian politician
  • ... (Another 3 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

  1. Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  2. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  3. 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)
  4. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  5. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 6) . Retrieved from on Facebook