The Crowley / Keohane Connection

By Marian Crowley Chamberlain, Crowley Clan Newsletter, July 2010

"Note that the name of the baby on the baptism certificate is Denis Keohane, as is the name of the father. However, the child was raised by the mother and took the name Crowley."

A researcher recently emailed the Crowley Newsletter with a copy of this Denis Keohane's baptism certificate from St. Finbarr's in Bantry in 1873 and with a request for assistance in finding more details about Denis and his family in Ireland. This researcher jumped to what seemed an obvious conclusion. That conclusion was that Denis had been raised by his mother and had taken her surname. But, there is another explanation for the change from Keohane to Crowley.

We think of surnames as having been established in the 13th and 14th century and of being relatively stable since that date. The surnames Keohane and Crowley would appear to be very different names. How could it be that a person named Keohane could become a Crowley in the late 19th century?

The website states: "We have much discussion over the origin of the name, but the view now held is that we are a branch of the Crowleys, who somehow got lost in a fog - the Irish word ceocháin certainly means fog or mist. Some assert that due to the fog we missed the Battle of Kinsale, January 1602. The Barryroe Keohanes - on the eastern side of the Keohane area - do not have any folklore memory of this link, but the connection is still retained in the Beara area, where the two surnames are commonly used - Crowley Keohane. In the Bantry area, the surnames were quite interchangeable up to recent years." The website goes on to say that many Keohanes changed their name back to Crowley when they arrived in the USA because "that's how they spelled it there."

Most Keohanes are from the areas of Beara, Bantry and Skibbereen. Many retain the name to this day. Others have changed it back to Crowley. We have at least one Crowley/Keohane in our Crowley DNA project who is a perfect 37 marker match to several Crowleys.

Not all Keohanes agree with the "lost in the fog" theory. One Keohane wrote in an email, "I don't like the idea that my clan didn't show up at the Battle of Kinsale." The word does mean fog in the Irish language but the reason this branch of the Crowleys took the name is only a theory.

Peter CrowleyKeohaneComment