The O'Keefes 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. County Cork is still the home of the majority of the families; many of the remainder live in the adjacent counties of Munster. The maritime county of Cork, in Munster, is bounded by the sea on the south-west, the south and the south-east. To the east it has land boundaries with the counties of Waterford and Tipperary, and to the north with Limerick and to the west with Kerry. Anciently the country formed part of the kingdom of Desmond. After the Anglo-Norman Invasion the whole of the present county, save the City of Cork (which had been founded by the Vikings) and its surroundings, was granted in 1177 by Henry II to Anglo-Norman knights who brought over their followers and established a military colony. 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. Sixteenth century sources, such as the State Papers and the Fiants, show that from Norman families, one of the heads of the families referred to as chiefs include the O'Keefes. 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.)
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