Keating and Cienfuegos Families

While transcribing John Percy Keating’s “John Keating and his Forbears”, one line jumped out at me:

[…] for when certain members of the Keating family were driven by the religious persecution of that day [the time of Queen Elizabeth] to seek refuge in Spain and Portugal, they translated their name into Spanish and became known as the family of Cienfuegos […]

Keating, John Percy (1918). John Keating and his Forbears. Records of the American Catholic Historical Society. p. 4. Retrieved 12 December 2020.

I know of many spellings of the Keating name, but prior to this, had never run across the “Cienfuegos” spelling. The diaspora of the Great Famine to immigration magnets such as the Americas and Australia is far from the only time Ireland has lost her children. During the various unsuccessful Irish rebellions against England’s rule, the defeated and their supporters often left Ireland for the European mainland, sometimes changing their name to fit the preferred regional spelling and pronunciation.

Looking around, there isn’t much in the way of information about the “Cienfuegos” name. There is a region/town in Cuba named Cienfuegos, and there are a smattering of people researching the name online.

There is a Cienfuegos DNA study, similar to the Keating DNA study. It would be interesting to compare the genetics of the two families to see how closely they match.

In a footnote within the 1850 Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, by an Octogenarian, James Roche notes the possibility that Cardinal Cienfuegos of Spain was the first Irish Cardinal:

[…] but I have also read that Cardinal Cienfuegos, who died in 1739, was an Irishman by birth, who, sent very young to Spain, there translated his patronymic, Keating, into the corresponding Spanish appellative. Certain it is, that both have exactly the same meaning–a hundred fires, (in Irish, Cead-teinid, pronunced very like Keating.) […] His Irish descent is very problematical, for Spanish biography represents him as born in the diocese of Oviedo; but the accordant sense of the names in both languages is undoubted. The name of Keating, however, does not appear to be strictly Irish, though many old Irish names have for safety in times of persecution, been identified with those of consonant or approximate sound in English, such as Mead, Reynolds, Hardiman, Lyons, Nolan, Holland, Collins. […]

Roche, James (1850). Critical and miscellaneous essays, by an octogenarian. Oxford University: Privately Printed. p. 183. Retrieved 12 December 2020.

Has anyone else run across any mention of the possibility of the Keating and Cienfuegos families having the same origins? If so, please comment below.

One Reply to “Keating and Cienfuegos Families”

  1. Dear Sir

    My fathers family have passed a story down through the years as far back as they can remember. My father remembers his grandfather telling him the story. His grandfather was born in 1866 and he was supposedly told by his grandfather. (how much embellishment or was forgotten is unknown)

    But The story goes we were originally from the basque area of france/spain which then covered a lot of miles. Some of the ancestors were hired as mercenaries to fight beside the french and spanish against the english. They did and got soundly beaten they made their escape and made it to wales and rested there not being able to be understood or understand what was being said to them, they said where they from CAINTAN *welsh translation :FAIR UNDER. They were called the CAINTANS by the welsh who apparently believed that was what they were called.

    After a time they made there escape across the irish sea some went home, some stayed as they had families.

    I do not speak or read spanish or french well enough to know if a region is or was named something similar. But somebody out there maybe able to help.

    My story may hold a nugget of truth somewhere in it or it maybe a fairy tale told to please the children either way i will still tell my children and grandchildren the same story. I even tell them that VALENTINE KEATING got the royal approval for the family crest in 1767. I want to believe, maybe just maybe.

    Yours Sincerely
    Mr Thomas Keating

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