The McKenna Family

McKenna family crest

(Crest No. 69. Plate 63.)

THE McKenna family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of Heber, third son of that monarch. The McKennas belonged to the Kianachta tribe, so called from its founder, Kiann, son of Olliol Ollum, King of Munster, A. D. 177, and his consort, Sabia, and are therefore of the united blood of Heber and Heremon.

The ancient name was Keniad, signifying “Slow,” and was taken from Cionaith, a chieftain, A. D. 980. The founder of the family was Sedna, of the race of Kiann. The title of the chiefs was Lord of Tireagh or Truagh, and the possessions of the sept were located in the present Counties of Monaghan, Leitrim, and Louth. A branch of the name was also settled in the County of Wexford.

The McKennas were chiefs of the territory of Trough, anciently called Triochached an Chladaigh, now the barony of Trough, in the north of the County of Monaghan, whence a branch of the same family removed to the parish of Maghera, in the County of Londonderry, in the middle of the seventeenth century, where the name is now very numerous.

Colonel McKenna, a member of this Ulster family, bore a conspicuous part in the Chilian war for independence. He commanded one of the two brigades that composed the patriot army, O’Higgins being in command of the other. On March 19, 1814, McKenna defeated the royalists under General Gainza, inflicting severe loss on them. This brave officer was killed the same year by one of the traitorous Carreras in a duel fought at Buenos Ayres. The greatest of South American writers is a descendant of the McKenna who emigrated to South America in the beginning of the present century.

The late United States Senator Kenna, from West Virginia, was a descendant of this sept.

This family has also furnished a number of eminent ecclesiastics to the ranks of the clergy both in Ireland and America. Among the latter may be mentioned the late Rev. John McKenna of Flushing, L. I., and the Rev. Charles McKenna of the Order of St. Dominic, New York, one of the most eloquent preachers and most successful missionaries in the United States; the Rev. Dean McKenna, the Rev. Eugene McKenna, and many others equally well known throughout the United States.