This interesting surname is of Irish origin. It is an anglicized form of the Gaelic 'O'Beachain', meaning descendant of Beachan, a personal name from a diminutive of 'beach', meaning bee. The O'Behans originally came from the juncture of Counties Kildare, Offaly and Laois, and they were notable principally as a literary family, two of whom were mentioned in the Annals of Loch Ce and the Four Masters as eminent historians. They were Conor O'Behan who died in 1376 and Donal O'Behan who died in 1411. O'Beacain was an older form of the name, while Beahan, Beaghan and Bean are occasional variants; and in County Kerry the tendency to emphasize the last syllable has made it Behane. The prefix 'O' is very rarely used in the present day. Among the recordings in Ireland are the baptism of Thomas, son of Cornelius Beahan and Mary Leahy, on March 22nd 1833 at Dromtarriff Roman Catholic Church, County Cork, and the marriage of John Behan and Mary Grandy on November 7th 1845 at Shillelagh, County Wicklow. Brendan Behan (1923 - 1964) was a very successful playwright of the present day. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hugh O'Beaghan (bishop), which was dated 1188, Iniscathy, County Limerick, Ireland, during the reign of King Henry 11, 'The Builder of Churches', 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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