The KEEFER's were one of the few members where the prefix 'O' has been retained through the years of Gaelic submergence. At the end of the last century there were about four O'Keeffes to every five Keeffes. The O'Caoimh sept from which the O'Keeffes descend were located in north-eastern Cork, whence they were displaced and migrated westwards into the barony of Duhallow in the same county. The name meant one who was gentle and kind. County Cork is still the home of the majority of the families; many of the remainder live in the adjacent counties of Munster. The tradition of surnames in Ireland developed spontaneously, as the population increased and the former practice, first of single names and then of ephemeral patronymics or agnomina of the nickname type proved insufficiently definitive. At first the surname was formed by prefixing 'Mac' to the father's Christian name or 'O' to that of a grandfather or earlier ancestor. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. (A sept who originally possessed the southern half of ancient Feara Maighe, now Fermoy, County Cork, from which they were driven after the English invasion when they settled at Duhallow, in the same county, in the district known as Pobble O'Keefe. The name is derived from Caoimh or Keeve Chief of the sept, who lived A.D. 950). It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
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