The surname MacEOCHAIN and the frequent but less common variant Kehoe, are borne by descendants of the MacEochaidh septs of which there are three hailing from different parts of Ireland. The Leinster sept was located in south County Wicklow and its descendants, many of whom survive in that area and County Wexford, favour the spelling Kehoe. The Munster sept are located in County Tipperary where their home is commemorated in the name of the townland of Ballymackeogh in the barony of Owney and Arra. The third sept sept of the name originated in Connacht and Athlone barony, County Roscommon. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. The rise of surnames, according to the accepted theory, was due to the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is often assumed that men 'adopted' their surnames. Some certainly did, but the individual himself had no need for a label to distinguish him from his fellows. The development of the feudal system made it essential that the king should know exactly what service each knight owed. Payments to and by the exchequer required that debtors and creditors should be particularized. Monasteries drew up surveys and extents with details of tenants of all classes in their services. Any description which identified the man was satisfactory, his father's name, the name of his land, or a nickname known to be his. The upper classes mostly illiterate, were those with whom the officials were chiefly concerned and among them surnames first became numerous and hereditary.
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