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This surname, meaning ‘son of Andrew’, is prolific, being common in Lowland areas as well as in the north-east. The reason why this name arises in so many different locations is due to Scotland’s patronymic system and little can be shown to suggest descent from a common ancestor. Thirteenth-century records give the earliest instances of the name and by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, seve.....

Heraldry Database: Mckenny


Surname:  McKenny
Branch:  McKenny
Origins:  Irish
More Info:  Ireland

Background:  This interesting surname is of Old Gaelic origin, and is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic "Mac Cionaodha", composed of the Gaelic prefix "Mac", son of, and a personal name composed of the elements "cion", respect, affection, and "Aodh", the name of a pagan god of fire. The name is chiefly found in Scotland as MacKenna, MacKinna, MacKinney and MacKinnie, particularly in Glasgow, but is also found in Ireland in the Tyrone, Fermanagh area, where some of them are of Scottish descent. The name first appears in records in Scotland inthe mid 15th Century (see below), while other early examples of the surname include William M'Kinnay, a charter witness in Wigtownshire in 1544, and John Mackynnay of Cray, Kirkcudbrightshire, recorded in 1546.

Motto:  Teneat, luceat, floreat, vi, virtute, et valore; May it hold, shine, and flourish, by valour, virtue, and worth.
Arms:  Or, a fleur de lis betw, three crescents azure, on a chief vert, a greyhound pursuing a stag argent attired or. Crest: a cubit arm in armour proper, garnish or,the gauntlet grasping a scroll argent. Motto: Vincit veritas.

View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.

The O'Kenny families of Ireland are found documented in our version of Keatings History of Ireland. According to O'Dugan, they were chiefs of Moy Ith. The name is as well, one of the 100 most numerous surnames in all of Ireland.

As might be expected there are several distinct origins for the name. Most often the family hails originally from the Galway/Roscommon area, as a sept of O'Cionnaoith of Hy Maine.

In the north, in the province of Ulster, the name is found more anciently in counties Tyrone and Down, and they may descend from the Irish family of O'Coinne, but this is unproven.

The family name is found as a chief clan of County Louth (as MacKenny), and the MacKennys or Keaneys are found mentioned as numerous in Leitrim in more ancient times.

Of the many spellings of the name, Kenney is linked most often with County Leitrim.

To complicate matters some, the name is also one of settler families from England. One English family from Somerset was owner of lands in Galway and Roscommon for some time as well as other unrelated Kinneys being in that area.

The birth index of 1890 find the name McKinney listed with 42 births in the counties of Antrim and Tyrone.

And another account:

The name Kenny is numerous in Ireland: it has seventy-six place in the list of commonest surnames. The majority of the people so called belong to families located in Counties Galway and Roscommon. This is the homeland in early times, as well as today, of the O'Kenny sept which in Irish is O'Cionnaoith: it is of the Ui Maine (Hy Many) and the same stock as the O'Maddens. Another sept of the same name was in early times in County Tyrone, but there is little trace of it left there now. When Kennys are found of long standing connexion with County Down, there are probably of the minor Ulster sept of O'Coinne.

In County Leitrim Kenny has to some extent absorbed the local name Keeney. This, sept also Keeny, Keany, Keaney, is fairly numerous in County Leitrin and southwest Dongal. Woulf give the Irish form of Keany as O'Cianaigh or perhaps more correctly O'Caoinnigh; he lists elsewhere Mac Eanna, anglice MacKeany, as a Wexford-Carlow surname and regards it as now hardly distinguishable from MacKenna. MacKeany, however, is found in County Fermanagh as synonymous with Keany. I find MacEanny in a County Roscommon Fiant of 1593 and I am inclined to think that Keany (Keeny etc.) is a Mac not an O name, the K, as in Keegan, Keogh and many others, being the C of Mac carried over to a proper name beginning with a vowel or silent F. I put this forward, however, as a probability, not as an authenticated fact.

Kenney is usually merely as variant spelling of Kenny, but it is also the name of some English immigrant families. One of these, by a coincidence, settled in the homeland of O'Kenny of Ui Maine.

The situation with regard to the main body of the Kennys, i.e. of Galway and Roscommon, is unusual because by a coincident it is also the name of a prominent English family from Somerset who, through intermarriage with County Galway families, became extensive landowners in that county and in Roscommon. Theses descend from Nicholas Kenny, Escheator General for Ireland under Elizabeth I, whose family was then established in County Wexord. Thus the leading families of the name in the Hy Many county, to which the O'Kenny sept belongs, are in fact of English origin. Rev. Arthur Kenny (1776-1855), the anti-Catholic controversialist, was probably one of these. On the other hand Rev. Peter James Kenny, S.J. (1779-1841), founder of Clongoweswood College, was one of the most distinguished Catholic preachers and theologians of the nineteenth century. James Kenney (1780-1849) the dramatist, was born in Dublin and his, perhaps better known, son, Charles Lamb Kenney (1821-1881), was born in Paris. James F. Kenney (b. 1884) was the author of the standard work Sources for the Early History of Ireland.

Name Variations:  Kenny, MacKenny, McKenny, O'Kenny, MacCionaodha, MacKenna, MacKinna, MacKinney, MacKinnie, M'Kinnay, MacKynnay, O'Cionnaoith, MacKennys, Keaneys, McKinney, MacKeaney, MacKenna, Keegan, Keogh.

One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
Irish Families, Their Names, Arms & Origins; Edward MacLysaght - 1957.
The Surnames of Ireland; Edward MacLynsaght - 1957.
The Book of Irish Families Great and Small.


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