Some say that the Kearney family can be traced back before the time of Christ through the lineage of Ui Neill. However, some of the earliest information is based on accounts written by monks or other persons, well after the persons being discussed were dead.
We will, therefore, begin this brief history of the origin of the Kearney surname with Naill of the Nine Hostages. Naill is known as somewhat of an Irish myth and legend. It has been established that he was a great historical figure who ruled Ireland from 378 to 405 AD. Naill is claimed to be the 124th Monarch of Ireland. He is known for undertaking raiding parties and kidnapping settlers who were living along the coast of Wales. It has been said that on one of these raids, Naill took a young boy hostage who later escaped and returned to Ireland. This young boy was said to be the future Saint Patrick.
Nail had twelve sons. Maine was one of these sons. Maines tract of land, which was handed down from father to son, is reported to have been in an area referred to as Teathbha or Teffia. Over the centuries, ancestors of Main, and local clans competed for the position of "King of Teathba". It is interesting to note that this territory slowly became smaller over time as land was divided among fomilies, and competition between clans took place. It is thought that Maines territory comprised of a good part of the current counties of Westmeath and Longford.
One of Maines descendants was Tadhgan. (also known as Tagan or Tagain). Tadhgan probably lived some time during the eighth centuries, around the year 900 AD. He became the founder of a line referred to even centuries later as Muintir Tadhgan (clan or people of Tadhgan). A burial stone in Clonmacnoise bears his name.
At Durrow there are two burial stones which bear the names of Tadhgans two grandsons (Or perhaps a grandson and a later descendant). One is Aghda, or Aigidiu, and the other Cathalan.
Cathalan had a son named Catharnach whose descendants began to be known as O'Catharnaigh.
The first mention of the O'Catharnaighs is found in the Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters. In the middle of the eleventh century surnames and nicknames began to develop. Eventually "O'Catharnaigh" was adopted as a surname. Still later it was abbreveated and anglicized to Kearney, O'Caharny, Kenny, Kinney, and other spelling variations.
other versions of this surname
- http://www.stirnet.com/genie/data/british/kk/kearney1.php (membership required to view without interruption)