This interesting surname with variant spellings, Kean, Keane, Kane, Keen, Keene etc., may be an Anglicized form of the Gaelic O' Cathain "descendant of Cathan", a personal name from a diminutive of "Cath" meaning "battle". Secondly, it may be a nickname for a brave or proud person deriving from the middle English "kene", old English pre 7th Century "cene". Thirdly, it may have derived from the Middle English given name Kene, a short form of any of the various old English pre 7th Century personal names with the first element "cene" or "cyne" "royal" (from "Cyning" meaning "chieftain", "king"). Finally, it may be an Anglicized form of the Scottish name Mac Eoin "son of Eoin", a variant of the personal name Eoin meaning "John". The surname dates back to the early 13th Century (see below). London church records include one Agnes Keene who married Thomas Gryffyn on February 17th 1576 at St. Gregory by St. Paul, and Hester, daughter of John Keane was christened on February 16th 1590 at St. Bartholomew's, Exchange. One Joanna Keane, aged 20 yrs., a famine emigrant sailed from Cork aboard the "Adirondack", bound for New York on April 11th 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Adam Kene, which was dated 1207, in the "Curia Regis Rolls of Suffolk", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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