This Irish surname which originated, it is claimed, in County Sligo, uses the Gaelic diminutive 'Eoghain', translating as 'Little Owen' or perhaps 'son of Owen' as its basic form. 'Owen' is in fact the Welsh form of the Hebrew John, and is believed to be first found in Ireland in the 7th Century A.D. when the early Christians arrived from Europe. The clan held important lands in the barony of Kiltartan, in County Galway in the 16th century. In fact area was at that time known as 'Termon Brian MacOwen'. The Irish clan name spellings are generally MacKeown, formerly MacEoghain, in Connacht, MacKeon, formerly MacEoin, in County Down, whilst in County Fermanagh to give another variation it was originally O'Ceothain, and is now O'Hone! The famous Irish etymologist Edward MacLysaght claimed that with 'Keon' the prefix O' and 'Mac' are interchangeable. Altogether there are at least seventeen variations of the surname spelling. It is also claimed that the clan has in the 20th century two homes. The first is Ballymakeown near Belfast, (the place of the MacOwens), and secondly the apparently oddly named Keonbrook in Co. Leitrim. Here in fact the name has been foreshortened from the original MacKeon(brook). The coat of arms has the blazon of a silver field, a red hand couped between two black lions combatant, in chief four red knights spurs. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Padraig MacOwen, which was dated 1659, taken from Pettys Irish Census, during the reign of Richard Cromwell, known as the Lord Protector, 1658 - 1659. 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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