This most interesting surname is of Old Gaelic origin, found in Scotland and Ireland, and is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic "O Cionnaoith", composed of the Gaelic prefix "O", male descendant of, and the personal name "Coinneach", an Old Irish personal name borne by a 6th Century monk and saint who gave his name to the town of Kilkenny, "Church of Coinneach". The name is the seventy-sixth most popular name in Ireland, and the majority of the people so called belong to Counties Roscommon and Galway. The O'Kenny sept formed part of the Ui Maine (Hy Many) tribe. By coincidence Kenny is also the name of a prominent English family from Somerset, who through extensive intermarriage with County Galway families became important landowners there and in Roscommon. They descended from Nicholas Kenny, Escheator-General for Ireland under Elizabeth 1. The name in Scotland, may, in some instances, be the Anglicized form of the Gaelic personal name "Cionaodha", perhaps composed of "cion", respect, affection, and "Aodh", the pagan god of fire. The surname is first recorded in England because record keeping in Ireland has been perforce erratic since the 12th Century due to the upheavals of war and occupation. Rev. P.J. Kenny S.J. (1779 - 1841), was founder of Clongoweswood College, an exclusive private school in Ireland, and was one of the most distinguished Catholic preachers in the 19th Century. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Matyle Kennie, which was dated February 14th 1563, at St. Andrew's, Holborn, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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