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KENNY Family History
Ó Cionnaoith- also Ó Cionaodha, according to P. Woulfe in 'Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall' (1923), anglicised Kenny, Kinney & c., earlier O Kenaith, O Kenny. Woulfe gives the root 'fire-sprung', though this is conjectural.
Ó Coinne- anglicised Conney, Quinney, Kenny and Quinn, descendant of Coinne, an Ulster name.
Ó Ciannaigh/Ó Caoinnigh- usually angl. Keen(e)y, Kean(e)y, a Leitrim name partially absorbed by Kenny, according to E. MacLysaght ('Irish Families' series, 1982,85).
Mac Cionnaoith/Mac Cionaodha- usually angl.MacKinn(e)y, MacKenn)y, MacKenna- similar root to no. 1, according to Woulfe. A sept of Monaghan, but also in Roscommon, and thus some transference with no.1
Mac Giolla Choinigh- angl. MacElkenny, MacIlkenny, MacIlhenny etc. also as Kenny and Heaney. According to Woulfe the root is 'servant of St Canice', from whom the town of Kilkenny takes its name. The name was found in the 16th century in Roscommon, Leitrim, Donegal and Down. The same possibility of absorption, transference occurs with No 1.
Most familes of the name would be of Cos Roscommon and Galway. The Ui Maine sept were powerful in the above areas, and were of the same stock as the O Maddens.
A further complication is that an English family of the name were planters in counties Wexford, Galway and Roscommon, from the time of Elizabeth 1st. These Kennys became very influential. The arms illustrated here are those of the English Kennys: i.e. 'per pale or & azure, a fleur-de-lys between three crescents counterchanged'. They are, in fact, the arms of Kenn(e)y (anciently Kenne) of Somerset who arrived in Ireland in the person of Sir Nicholas Kenny, Escheator to Elizabeth 1st, whose progeny settled, coincidentally, in the Uí Maine heartland of the O Kennys! These very arms were registered at Ulster's Office by this English official in 1571. They appear as Kenne/Kenney of Somerset in Burke's 'General Armory' (1883).
There are, incidentally, many Irish names whose anglicised forms are identical to rarer British names that were occasionally borne by settlers or officials in 17th century Ireland. (v. Appendix).
Listed as a 'Principal Irish Name' in Sir William Petty's '1659 Census' there are:
In Co Roscommon 11 families of McKeny and Kenny , Roscommon Barony, and Keny/Kenny with 6 families in Athlone Barony.
In Co Offaly Petty has 9 families of Kyne listed in the Barony of Coolistowne, 7 of Kenny in Garriecastle.
In Co Louth in 1659 there are 4 families of Keny in Drogheda.
In Co Donegal Petty has 6 families of O Kenny in the Barony of Boylagh and Banagh, and 6 of O Kenny in Raphoe.
In Co Kilkenny, 5 families of Kenny appear as a Principal Irish Name in Fassagh Deinin Barony.
There are none listed in Co Leitrim proper; and, unfortunately, records for Galway are missing.
Griffith's 'Valuation' of property, 1847-60, shows most Kennys in Cos Galway (235) Roscommon (207) Wexford (134) Kilkenny (130) and Offaly (108).
In the Registrar General R.E. Matheson's 'Special Report...' (1894), based on the births distribution figures of 1890, most Kenny births occurred in Cos Galway, Roscommon and Dublin.
R.E.Matheson's 'Varieties & Synonymes of Surnames...in Ireland' (1901) lists the following synonyms of Kenny: Kean(e)y in Co Leitrim, Kilkenny in Banbridge, Co Down, McKinny in Newry, Co Down, and Kinney and McKenny generally. In other words some Kennys in Co Down could really be Mac Giolla Choinigh or Mac Cionnaoith, whilst some Kennys of Leitrim stock could be Ó Ciannaigh/Ó Caoinnigh; see these names above. The same holds for some midland Kennys being Mac Cionnaoith; and persons named Kinney bearing their name as an anglicisation of Ó Cionnaoith. That sounds a bit of a conundrum, but it could prove of value to family researchers.
Three notable Kennys:
Peter James Kenny S.J. (1780-1849) doubtless of the O Kenny sept, a Catholic theologian.
Rev, Arthur Kenny (1776-1855) anti-Catholic preacher, probably with English antecedents.
Enda Kenny (b. 1945) Castlebar, Co Mayo. Fine Gael politician, present Taoiseach of Ireland. He is currently the longest serving member of the Dáil, being T.D. for Mayo since 1975, in which incumbency he followed his father, Henry Kenny.
Also q. v. v. Boland, Boyle, Brady, Breen, Buckley, Canny, Car(e)y, Conway, Craven, Crowley, Cullen, Curry, Delan(e)y, Farren, Fearon, Foley, Gavin, Geary, Gorman, Hanl(e)y, Healy, Hurl(e)y, Hynes, Kelly, Kenny, Larkin, Loftus, Long, Luc(e)y, Lyons, Mullen, Rea, Reaney, Ring, Sexton, Trac(e)y, Tunney et. al.