The O’Keefe Family

O'Keefe family crest

(Crest No. 70. Plate 63.)

THE O’Keefe family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through Heber, the third son of that monarch. The founder of the family was Cormac, King of Munster, A. D. 483.

The chief of the O’Keefes was styled Prince of Duhallow, and his possessions were situated in the County of Cork.

The ancient name of the family was Ciabhach, signifying “Hairy.” The name O’Keefe was taken from Caoimh, A. D. 950.

The O’Keefes were also known as Chiefs of Glen Amhain and of Urluachra. Glen Amhain, or Glen Avon, is now called Glanworth, a place in the barony of Fermoy, County Cork.

This family had afterward a large territory in the barony of Duhallow, known as Pobal O’Keefe, hence the title of Prince of Duhallow.

In ancient times the O’Keefes held the territory of Fermuighe Feni, now the barony of Fermoy, County Cork, which was afterward possessed by the Anglo-Norman family of Roche, Viscounts of Fermoy, and called Roches’ Country.

The O’Dugans and O’Coscraighs were the most ancient Chiefs of Fermoy.

The O’Keefes were at one time marshals and military leaders in Desmond, and were styled Princes of Fermoy. They had several castles, the chief of which were those of Dromagh and Dunragil.

The territory called Pobal O’Keeffe, now Pobble O’Keeffe, is situated on the confines of the Counties of Cork, Limerick and Kerry, about ten miles distant from Castle Island on the west, and from New Market and Kanturk on the east. This tract of land extends about seven miles in length from north to south, parallel with the Blackwater (by which it is in a great part bounded on the west), and about two miles and a quarter in breadth from west to east, on which side it is bounded by the Ownaglyn, a mountain stream flowing into the Blackwater. This territory, which lay waste since the time of James the Second, when the last O’Keeffe, a boy of sixteen, went into the French service at the head of his father’s company of foot, was appropriated to the Crown, in the reign of William the Third, and a small town built thereon, under the name of Williamstown, and the lands let to farmers directly under the Crown.

Two brothers of the above-mentioned O’Keeffe served with him as officers in Clare’s (O’Brien) Regiment, and the name has remained one of military distinction in France down to our own day.

The family has produced many patriots and writers, one of the best known of whom is John O’Keefe, a popular dramatic writer, born in 1747. He wrote upward of fifty comedies and farces, some of which still hold the stage. Many of this name hold honorable positions in the United States, among them Mr. John G. O’Keeffe, of the well-known banking house of H. L. Horton & Co., New York; Patrick O’Keefe, the famous orator, Kentland, Ind., and Mr. John J. O’Keefe, the New York publisher.