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Irish Surname - Kearns

In Ireland the name Kearns is derived from the Gaelic O'Ciarain and O'Ceirin - it is anglicised from a Gaelic word meaning 'dark'. The main Septs were located in Counties Mayo and Cork, and circa 1420, the clan were in possession of the greater part of the present barony of Costello in County Mayo.

During mediaeval times they gradually reduced in prominence, but they remained in their native habitat in a more or less subordinate position and also spread into the neighbouring counties. An inquisition of 1609 describes them as then tenants of Killaghtee, in the diocese of Raphoe and in the census of 1659 they are to be found in County Sligo.

In 1420 a leading branch of the family settled in County Clare where they prospered in their new home and have been prominent there since. The anglicised form of the surname of this branch is Kerin or O'Kerin. The tomb of Teige O'Kerin (1685) is still to be seen in Ennis Abbey.

The name is still plentiful in County Mayo to the present day and and Kerrane is also a variation in that county.

Variations of this surname include Kerin, Kieran, O'Kieran, Keiran, Kerrane and Kearon. In Donegal the name is found as Kerr.

Famous People

Anthony Kearns (born 1971 in County Wexford) is a world-renowned tenor and a founding member of 'The Irish Tenor's, who are popularly ranked as Ireland's premier ambassadors of song.

Father Moses Kearns, a courageous leader in County Wexford lived an exciting life. In 1792 he was hanged from a lamp post in Paris by a revolutionary mob, but he survived through the breaking of the rope and the presence of an Irish doctor. He then moved back to Ireland to become one of the leaders of the 1798 rebellion in County Wexford.

Violinist, organist and composer William Henry Kearns (1764 - 1846), was a Dublin man.

American railroad builder, Richard Kerens (1842 - 1916), was the son of a Kearns from County Meath.

Researching Irish Surnames

We have researched many sources for the origins of Irish surnames and extracted a fair representation of the origins of each. As there are many variations we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection.

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