This is a rare and ancient Irish surname. Recorded in various spellings including Kevelhan, Kivlehan, Kivelhan, Kivelhanan, and the short forms of Kivlin and Kevlin, it is known as a co-arb surname. It originated from the village of Fore in County Westmeath, but is now recorded mainly in Counties Sligo and Leitrim. 'Comharba', now shortened to co-arb, was the word used for the 'lay heir' of the saintly founder of a church, in effect the co-arb and his heirs and successors, became the hereditary 'lords of the church'. They were responsible for both the church property and the endowed lands associated with it. Whilst not exactly a license to print money, there is no doubt that being a co-arb conferred both status and wealth on those fortunate enough to be beneficiarys. The co-arb was also responsible for the appointment of the priest, the practice being not dissimilar to the powers of a lord of the manor in England. The practice died out in about the 15th century. The modern spellings are slightly anglicized versions of the original O'Cibhleachain, which is believed ro be topographical and describe: 'the descendant of one who lived on the sedge land'. Examples of the surname recording taken from surviving church registers in Ireland include Laurentius Kevlin at Drumcliff, County Sligo, on May 28th 185, and Patrick Kivelhan, also recorded as Kivlehan, a christening witness at Magherow R C church, Sligo, on April 2nd 1865 and October 15th 1870.
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