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

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

All Irish surnames have underlying meanings that can be traced back to their fullest points when the names first appeared in a Gaelic form. The name O'Keeffe originally appeared in Gaelic as "O Caoimh," which is derived from the word "caomh," which means "gentle."


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 O'Keeffe that are preserved in the archival documents of the time are O'Keeffe, O'Keefe, Keefe, Keeffe, Keefer, Keiffe and others.

First found in County Cork (Irish: Corcaigh) the ancient Kingdom of Deis Muin (Desmond), located on the southwest coast of Ireland in the province of Munster, where they held a family seat from ancient times.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our O'Keeffe research. Another 250 words(18 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1640, 1655, 1670, 1691, 1703, 1740, 1747, 1778, 1791, and 1833 are included under the topic Early O'Keeffe History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 53 words(4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early O'Keeffe Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


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 O'Keeffe, or one of its variants:

O'Keeffe Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Daniel, Eugene, John, Michael, Thomas, and William O'Keeffe, all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860
  • Ansty O'Keeffe, aged 16, who landed in America from Kilkenny, in 1897

O'Keeffe Settlers in United States in the 20th Century

  • Alice O'Keeffe, aged 25, who landed in America from Castlecomer, Ireland, in 1907
  • Aileen O'Keeffe, aged 3, who settled in America from Sallins, Co Kildare, Ireland, in 1911
  • Annie O'Keeffe, aged 35, who emigrated to the United States from Sallins, Co Kildare, Ireland, in 1911
  • Angela O'Keeffe, aged 17, who emigrated to the United States from Carrigaloe, Ireland, in 1920
  • Benjamin O'Keeffe, aged 22, who emigrated to America from Glountane, Ireland, in 1920


  • Georgia Totto O'Keeffe (1887-1986), prominent American artist/painter and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Miles O'Keeffe (b. 1954), American actor
  • Kristin Bair O'Keeffe (b. 1966), American novelist
  • Eoin O'Keeffe (b. 1979), Irish composer based in the UK
  • John O'Keeffe (b. 1951), retired Irish footballer
  • Dan O'Keeffe (1907-1967), Irish footballer universally regarded as the greatest Gaelic football goalkeeper of all-time
  • Ned O'Keeffe (b. 1942), Irish politician
  • Padraig O'Keeffe (1887-1963), Irish traditional musician
  • Aidan O'Keeffe (b. 1982), former Irish professional footballer
  • Robert "Bob" O'Keeffe (1881-1949), Irish hurler who played from 1914-1915, President of the Gaelic Athletic Association (1935-1938)



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  1. Somerset Fry, Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry. A History of Ireland. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993. Print. (ISBN 1-56619-215-3).
  2. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of Ireland. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1969. Print.
  3. Johnson, Daniel F. Irish Emigration to New England Through the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick Canada 1841-1849. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield, 1996. Print.
  4. Rasmussen, Louis J. . San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists 4 Volumes Colma, California 1965 Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1978. Print.
  5. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  6. 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).
  7. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  8. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  9. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1970. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  10. MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland 3rd Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1978. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2278-0).
  11. ...

The O'Keeffe Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The O'Keeffe 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 22 March 2015 at 11:28.

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