Roots: The Keogh Clan

The Keogh family coat of arms

By Maeve Molloy, Editorial Assistant
June / July 2007

Keough, Keogh, Kehoe, O’Hoey, Hoy, Haughy, Haugh and MacKeogh are all derivatives of the Irish surname Mac Eochaidh.
The clan originated, predominantly, in Leinster, and Kehoe is a common name in County Wexford. Outside of Leinster the Kehoes are most prevalent in Limerick and Tipperary. The Irish spelling of the name Keogh is MacEochaibh, but the Munster spelling is slightly different: MagCeoch or MacCeoch are the Gaelic translation in the southern province.

There were three famous strands of the family Keogh. The first were the MacKeoghs, located in Ballymackeogh, County Tipperary. The second strand was in the Ui Maine Group and counted Eochaidh O’Kelly among their ancestors. They were lords of Magh Finn and
commanded the area of Moyfinn near Athlone, which was known in ancient times as Keogh’s country. The townland of Keoughville in Taghmaconnell also derives its name from the clan.

Of most historical significance of the three sects were the Mackeoghs from Leinster. In medieval times they moved from Kildare to Wicklow and then down to Wexford.

Many of the MacKeogh clan were famous poets, and Maolmuire MacKeogh is described as chief professor of poetry in Leinster in 1534 in the Chronicles of the Four Masters. The 18th century produced two famous Protestant clergymen with the same name: The first John Keogh (1653-1725) was a mathematician while the second John Keogh (1681-1754) was a botanist and a zoologist.

The Keoghs also made their mark as both rebels and politicians. Matthew Keogh (1744-1798) was hanged for his role in the Irish rebellion. John Keogh (1740-1817) campaigned for Irish Catholics to get the vote and to repeal the Penal Laws. William Keogh (1817-1878) was an MP and a judge who knew John Sadlier, a lord of the treasury who was later found to be a conman and a forger. In more recent times, U.S. Senator Christine Kehoe (D) has been serving as senator from California since her election in 2004. Prior to her senatorial position, she was a California state assemblywoman from 2000-2004.

The Keoghs also made great soldiers. Myles Walter Keogh (March 25, 1840 – June 25, 1876) was born in Co. Carlow. He signed up as a volunteer with the Union Army, and saw action in the Gettysburg campaign. After the war he obtained a commission as a captain in the 7th Cavalry Regiment under George Armstrong Custer. He was killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Keogh’s horse, Comanche, was the only military survivor of the battle. Shortly after the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, the Army honored Keogh by naming Fort Keogh after him. Established to bring the Indians in the region under control and onto reservations, today Fort Keogh is a 55,000 acre rangeland beef cattle research facility operated in cooperation with the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station, the agriculture research component of Montana State University.

Myles Keogh’s remains are interred in Ft. Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York.

In World War II, Shorty Keogh, “the first American ace of WWII,” was one of several Americans who flew in the Battle of Britain, as members of 609 Squadron. Following the Battle of Britain, Shorty joined the first Eagle Squadron.

Flying high in the world of fashion, we have Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough, who is making a name for herself as a runway model. Keogh made her modeling debut with Dolce and Gabbana and has since worked for fashion-world heavy hitters such as Christian Dior and Victoria’s Secret. Born May 29,1989 as Danielle Riley Keough, she is the daughter of Lisa Marie Presley and musician Danny Keough.

Irish actor Des Keogh is also known for his work on stage and on screen. Since his memorable performance in Ulysses in 1967, he has had a prolific career. Most recently, he reaffirmed his acting credentials with the massive success of his one-man show The Love-Hungry Farmer,  a play he adapted from the letters of John B. Keane concerning his inability to find a woman. After two runs at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York Keogh brought the show to Ireland where he enjoyed a sold-out tour.

In the world of sports, Matt Keough (1955- ) played baseball in the major leagues from 1977 to 1986. He began his career as an infielder, but quickly became a star pitcher. Keough played for the Oakland A’s, the New York Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, and the Houston Astros. His son, Shane Keough, is currently in the minor leagues and a prospective recruit for the Oakland Athletics.
The Keogh name is also familiar to those with an eye on retirement. The Keogh plan, a tax-deferred retirement plan designed to help self-employed workers, was named after U.S. Representative Eugene James Keogh, who came up with the idea in 1962. Keogh, a Democrat, was born in Brooklyn in 1907, and elected to Congress in 1936.

But in a world of interesting Keoughs both historic and present day, there is no one who means more to Irish America than Donald Keough. A true friend of Ireland, Keough, whose ancestors hail from Co. Wexford, established the Institute of Irish Studies at Notre Dame, and the Keough Notre Dame Centre in Dublin. The former president and CEO of Coca-Cola Company, and current chairman of Allen & Co., grew up in Sioux City, Iowa. He is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Horatio Alger Award and the Notre Dame Laetare Medal. A keynote speaker at Irish America’s  Business 100 and Wall Street 50 dinners, he was our  Irish-American of the Year  in 1995 and was honored as one of our “Irish of the Century”in 1999.

10 Responses to “Roots: The Keogh Clan”

  1. Meg butler says:

    I am a descendant of the “Keogh’s ” so awesome to find out about the name

  2. lisa Keogh says:

    I am a Keogh and so very proud to be one

  3. June Keogh says:

    I will be traveling to Ireland this summer to find the Keogh’s that were from Taum, CO Galway. James Keogh was the first to America of our family. Anyone out there also from Tuam, or know any history before 1835?

  4. I too am a Kehoe! And so very proud to be a part of this strong Irish history. Traveling to Ireland with my family next month. Can’t wait to experience this amazing culture!

  5. Dan wilson says:

    My father was a keough st Bridgets des laval
    Quebec (near Quebec City)
    There was a marriage in 1835 Keough and Ryan
    My dad was Thomas Keough unfortunatly I only knew him as Tommy
    Such was the times
    My mother a Doherty again Quebec St Bridgits
    Now known as st Bridgit des Laval

  6. Great grandmother was a Kehoe or (Keogh) who married a Kennedy who’s daughter (Mary ALICE) married an O’Riley , who’s daughter, Bridgetta Irene
    married a Norseman named Gunderson.

    That explains my Norwegian name (I loved dad’s family but my Irish relatives were usually more fun).

    Thanks for the research. The one that got hanged for rebellion was definitely a cousin.

  7. I am a Keough! Desperate to find relatives! My papa was Gary Keough he went to visit captain Myles Keogh so that might be a start if anyone know anything please let me know trying to find my real roots! Thank You!

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