Kane Surname Genealogy

and Keane
are both anglicizations of Cathain, a
personal name diminutive of cath
meaning “battle.”
were two main septs in Ireland called O’Cathain
O’Cahan, one from Ulster and the other from Connacht.
The former were generally anglicized as Kane, the latter as
Keane. The
present day distribution of these names reflects this former division,
with Kane
preponderant in Northern Ireland
and Keane in
the rest of Ireland.
The spelling generally progressed from O’Cahan to O’Kane to Kane.
There has recently been a revival in O’Kane in the heartland
Derry. In America Kane may be a Jewish name, from the German Kahn
or Kuhn.

Kane Resources on

Kane Ancestry

of Keenaght and Coleraine in county Derry were a powerful and important
Ulster sept, although probably not of much account before the 12th
century when, emerging from east Donegal, they succeeded in ousting the
O’Connors of Dungiven
from their territory.

Once established
at Limavady by the Roe river, they retained their ascendancy in Derry,
despite internal feuding, until the coming of the Ulster Plantations in
the early 17th century. At that time a large tract of land,
known as O’Cahan’s country, was targetted by the Government for English

The last chief of the O’Cahans was Donnell Ballagh. He
joined up with the O’Neills in the rebellion against the English.
the Flight of the Earls in 1607 he was arrested and imprisoned in
Dublin Castle and then in the Tower of London where he died. O’Cahan’s
, thought to have been written about this time, is
believed to have been the basis of the song Danny Boy.
The final
conflict between the O’Cahans and the English occurred at Gelvin near
in 1641. The O’Cahans were defeated.

remained in Ulster after the defeat (those who
headed south often became Keanes).
Griffith’s Valuation in the mid-19th century showed that 40
percent of
the Kanes in Ulster were still based
The Kane
name is particularly
common in the Coleraine district of Derry.
Folk singer Damien O’Kane hails from Coleraine, the boxer Eamonn
from Dungiven.

America. Bernard
and Martha O’Kane brought their family over to America from Ireland in
1756. As Kanes they settled in
Philadelphia where they became an influential family.
Thomas Kane was a Union general during the
Civil War, his brother Elisha a naval officer and Arctic explorer. The family home Anoatok,
named from one of Elisha’s Arctic expeditions, was located
in Kane, Pennsylvania. Many of Thomas’s
sons were noted surgeons.

about the family was auctioned off in


Many Kanes stayed on the Eastern Seaboard, others headed
west. Among the latter Kanes were:

  • John
    and Suzanna O’Kane from Tyrone who in the 1820’s were one of the early
    settlers in
    Franklin county, Indiana
  • Patrick and Bridget Kane from Roscommon who came out to
    Dubuque, Iowa in the 1860’s
  • Hugh O’Kane who
    arrived in New York from county Antrim in the late
    1860’s, headed west and, after an adventurous time, settled down in
  • and James Kane from Mayo who came
    with his family to San Francisco in 1901. He
    survived the earthquake and was a policeman.

Canada. Paul Kane, born in
Cork of English parents, came to Toronto as a boy in the early
1820’s. He became famous for his paintings of First Nations
people in the Canadian West. His home in Toronto still stands.

Alice Kane, who arrived with her parents in 1921 when she was thirteen,
also made her home in Toronto. She is remembered as a wondrous
story-teller (as evidenced in her
Songs of an Ulster Childhood
). The Alice Kane Award
commemorates this story-telling.

Australia. Early
Kane arrivals in Australia were convicts.
came Kane settlers. Stephen Kane from county Clare came to
NSW with his wife Elizabeth in 1841. His brother Michael
followed him
in 1855. Thadeus O’Kane arrived from London in 1865. He was
one of the most colorful and hard-hitting figures in early Queensland
journalism, losing count of the number of libel actions he had to face.

Kane Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Kane Names

Maige na nGall O’Cathain
a mighty O’Cathan
chieftain, died in 1385 and is said to be buried in Dungiven Priory. Cui
Maige na nGall
means “terror of the foreigner
was one of the famous
Irish harpists of the 18th
Thomas Kane was an American attorney,
diplomat, abolitionist, and Civil War general.

Paul Kane was a 19th century
painter of native people in the Canadian West.
directed by Orson Welles, is considered by many to be one of the
greatest films
ever made.

Select Kanes Today

  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 19,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)




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