The Origins of the Keating Name

An extract from the “Memoir of the Father Geoffrey Keating, D. D.”, by Michael Doheny, Esq. This memoir makes up part of the introduction to John O’Mahony’s translation of Geoffrey Keating’s “The History of Ireland” (in Irish Gaelic, “Foras Feasa Ar Eirinn”), originally published in 1857. The extract is from pages iv through v of the memoir.

It is now time we should say what we can of the subject of this memoir personally. Doctor Keating himself traces his lineage to the distinguished family of that name, whose various branches held high rank and large possessions in the Counties of Wexford, Kildare, Carlow, Waterford, Tipperary and Cork. According to the traditions of the family, adopted and, so to say, legalised by the books of Heraldry in Ireland, the founder of the house, whose original name is now unknown, was one of the pioneers of the Norman Invaders, who kindled the beacon fire that lit the way of Fitzstephens into Cuan-an-Bhainbh. The story goes, that as he lay by his watchfire, a wild boar chancing to prowl that way, was proceeding to attack him, until frightened by the sparkling of the fire, when he fled in dismay. The watcher, thus providentially saved, adopted for his crest a wild boar rampant, rushing through a brake, with the motto, “fortis et fidelis,” and his name became, we are not told how, Keating or Keting, from the Irish words “Cead tinne,” “first fire.”

As early as the year 1179, only ten years after the landing of Fitzstephens, we find the name “Halis Keting” a subscribing witness to a grant to Dunbrody Abbey by Herve de Montmorencie. This fact, in the absence of other evidence, would be sufficiently conclusive, against the assumption that Keating was a corruption of the Norman name, “Etienne,” for no such corruption had taken place at that early date, nor did the invaders hold familiar intercourse with the Irish.

As Dermid Mac Murchad arrived in Ireland, from his exile, a year before the landing of Fitzstephens, and was accompanied by Welshmen, and as he was anxiously expecting the arrival of his auxiliaries, nothing would be more natural than that one of those Welshmen should be employed as a watcher for their coming, and, on his success, should be rewarded by the perfidious prince himself with the title and distinction of “Cead tinne.”

“Halis Keting” was undoubtedly the founder of the house. He received large grants of land. His principal estate and residence was Baldwinstown, in Wexford. His descendants, being in connection, if not kindred, with the Geraldines, extended their sway over many counties, and were distinguished for hospitality and courage. Narraghmore in Kildare, the residence of one of the family, has remained famous to our own day for its “Cead mile failte,” which was known all over the island.

Kindling the fire, that lit the foeman’s way, was by no means a cherished title to Irish gratitude. But, in process of time, many of the Normans, as was proverbial of the Geraldines, became nationalized, and in defiance of the “Statute of Kilkenny” London edicts and other devices of “British civilization,” entered into the honored relations of fosterage and gossipred with the Irish. Nay, sometimes they went the audacious length of intermarrying, being so rude of taste as to prefer some “silver tongued” Irish beauty to the haughtiest Norman dame. Among these were the Keatings, who, on many an occasion, proved themselves formidable opponents to London law and King bishops.

In the reign of Henry VII., James Keating, Prior of Kilmainham, stormed Dublin Castle, and held it for months against the Government. He was afterwards dislodged and attainted, and Parliament, in furtherance of civilization, enacted and ordained that no person born in Ireland should ever thereafter be Prior of Kilmainham; a salutary enactment which became a precedent in practice with the English garrison in Ireland ever since. During the “rebellion” of the great Earl of Desmond, the Keatings of Carlow did such good service in his cause that the whole sept, branch and name, were attainted. How it fared with the Tipperary families, with whom the Doctor is more immediatetely connected, we have no record of. Possibly that, being under the protection of Ormond, and holding their estates in his palatinate, they took no part for or against their kindsman of Desmond.

Note: Bob Keating originally sent parts of this to the Keating-L mailing list on 1 January 1999. I’ve added a bit more text from my copy of the same book.

18 Replies to “The Origins of the Keating Name”

  1. This is quite a read. From what I know I have Keating ancestors who were from Sligo. Regardless, great stuff! Thanks.

  2. I have read this and other sites with great interest. I knew the Keatings were Anglo-Norman but little more. The depth of this research does you all great credit. My paternal great grandfather, James Keating – in a long line of James’s – emigrated to Australia in the nineteenh century. Even now it is an uncommon name here. It would be good to know a little about the more recent movement of the family such as why some chose to go to the US and others to Australia, about four times the distance and passage price.

    I would certainly welcome the chance to receive and send emails and learn from the research of Keating clan members.

  3. Actually the Keating name is infamous following Paul Keating’s episode as Prime Minister.I however am after anfo on John Keating born c 1832 died 31/07/1872 at Bendigo Australia, and married Margaret Mc Donnell at Bendigo 31/03/1856 Also his mother Catherine Walsh & father John Keating who was listed as a farmer

  4. I understand ex Prime Minister Paul Keating is descended from a Chapman of Wexford. Has anyone found a Keating-Chapman connection in their research so far?

  5. My family, who is french, is the direct descendant of William Keating who settled in France at the end of the XVIIIth century after his father came to Poitiers (France). I would be pleased to have a contact with the other Keating branches in Ireland, the USA etc. Could anyone help me in my research of Keating cousins ?

  6. My family is also French Keatings. We are descendants of Louis Hugh Keating who arrived in Louisiana in 1815. He stated that he was born in Brest, France the son of Louis Keating and Anne Augnot (Augenot). My g-g-g-grandfather Louis Alclomar Keating corresponded with a “Dear Oncle” in Philadelphia who had previously lived at Newark (Delaware). I suppose this to be the Baron John Keating of Philadelphia but I have not been able to attach my family to this other French Keating family. I’ve also contacted the Keatings on Ile-Maurice (Mauritius) who we may well be related to as well.

  7. As legend has it (at least that with which I was brought up), Keating was rightly derived from “Céad Tine” or first fire. The first of the clan came from Wales before the “official” Norman invasion in 1169. Strongbow and his king Henry II, had long coveted the idea of an invasion of the country before invited by Dermot MacMorrough, the deposed King of Leinster. So in 1167, 2 years before the history books record, the first of the Normans “secretly” arrived in Wexford and lit fires on the coast of that county which was most accessible from Pembroke in Wales. This was done to signal to the incoming Norman invaders the most appropriate places to land their ships. Thus the name “first fire” becomes more poignant.

  8. The first Keating I am aware of is James de Keting mentioned in 1302 in Kerry.I was always of the opinion that we descended from a de Ketings who was a Norman mercenary baron.He arrived here with Strongbow in 1169 from Wales.
    We are an Irish based branch of the family.My father was John Keating, my grandfather and great grandfather also.While I now live in Dublin,I am from Co Offaly as are my forebears.If any of our diaspora wish to contact me,feel free to pass on my email.

  9. I am also Irish, from Tipperary but now living in Spain and John I know you and knew your father, he was Dad´s cousin. He was also his best man and Godfater to my brother, Paul.
    My late father (Pat Keating) was very active in the Keating history and gave many lectures on the subject over the years. However since his death 15 years ago, we among the family have not taken it up as much as we should have. The real fault lays with myself as I had always assumed the mantle of continuing the work.I used to help him out and worked as a librarian in Dublin for many years.
    The notes are there (10+ years of research in the National Library and elsewhere, including Wales) but need to be collated and carefully edited. There is an abundance of material but a lot needs to be translated from the Latin which I sadly lack.
    I suppose that having reached the 40´s, and living abroad, my sense of heritage is beginning to manifest itself with a greater sense of urgency.
    Apart from that, there is another Keating on the way soon and we want to give he/her a real sense of family pride. I will do my best to get the material and make sense of it. But it would be great to have some support from Dublin.
    All the best,


  10. From what I can gather the name Keating derived in Baldwinstown with the early Norman invasion when John Fitzgerald earned the name of Shower of Fire (Ceath tine). As this is very close to my ancestral home of Tullibards Bridgetown I am eager to find further links. So far the earliest I have got is my Great Grandfather James Keating who married Margaret Freeman. James died aged 50 in 1895 in Castlebridge Co. Wexford and was buried in Grange, Kilmore. Any links out there??

  11. Hi

    I have traced my ancestors back to my great, great grandfather Patrick Keating, Murntown Upper, Kildavin, Co Wexford. Does any other Keating out there share that ancestor?

    Una Keating

  12. I am taking my 2 kids to Ireland this summer. Is there anyone out there that can get us info on Tom or Thomas Keating who emigrated from Ireland to New Brunswick. He had a son, James who was married to Ida. They had a son Charles Augustus Keating who married Francis McDiarmid (also born in N.B.,. they had 4 children including my father, Robert Clark Keating. Any help on getting tol Tom’s roots in Ireland appreciated. Thanks to whoever created this Keating site.

  13. Hi everyone,
    I too come from the Keating line – William and Mary (Ryan), James Keating (sentenced to life in Aust in 1836 for stealing a sheep to feed his kids – we have it soooo good nowadays) and Johanna Dwyer, then Mary Keating and Samuel Turner,then Samuel Turner (jnr) and Agnes Laura Moroney, then Ella Catherine Turner (my beloved nanna dec) and Ernest Robert Bale, then Betty Bale (my beloved mum dec) and Harold John Jamieson (still going at 87yo) … then me, 1 sister and 3 brothers.
    I would love to hear from anyone anyone but from the Kildorrery and/or Cork regions in particular.
    Cheers, Helen.

  14. Hello Helen J,

    I am descended from the William Keating (born ca. 1750) and Mary Ryan (born ca. 1760) family line, six generations further down the line. I have been reconstructing my family tree on the Genes Reunited website. I’d like to get in touch so that I can expand the tree I have been working on.

    Michael Keating
    Cape Town
    South Africa

  15. I am a descendant of Thomas Keating, from Duncannon, Ireland who married a Bridget Dooley of Carrick-on-Suir, in Newfoundland, Canada in 1842.

    Does anyone please have any info on the ancestors of this couple? I have their Newfoundland descendants, but cannot make the link to their homeland.

  16. Hi, Michael & Helen J, I last wrote May 3rd 2009. Changed emails since. I have William Keating b c1765 & Mary Ryan b c1768 possibly in Tipperary. Two sons John b c1790 & Patrick b c 1791. .. The john married married Catherine West ( or Welch) They had Thomas, Mary & Margaret. The children emigrated to Australia as Unassisted passengers. Thomas arrived Feb 1855 & girls 1863.. All married in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia.. Do you know more? Bob

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