Select Kenny Miscellany

Here are some Kenny stories and accounts over the years:

Kennys in Ireland

The majority of the people belong to families located in Galway and Roscommon.  This was the homeland in early times of the O'Kenny sept of the Uí Máines (Hy Many) and of the same stock as the O’'Maddens. 

Another sept of the same name was in early times in Tyrone, but there is little trace of it left there now. When Kennys are found of long-standing connection with county Down, they probably come from the minor Ulster sept of O’Coinne.   Meanwhile in Leitrim. Kenny to some extent absorbed the local Keeney name.

Kennys in Ireland Today

A telephone directory survey in Ireland in 1992 revealed 2,900 Kennys, of which Dublin, due to migration over the years, accounted for the largest share, around 22 percent.

The traditonal origin of the name in Roscommon and Galway remained well represented, although there had been a shift away from Galway and towards Westmeath, Roscommon's eastern neighbor.  The other place for Kennys was Wexford. 

The Kenneys in London

The Boodles club in London has had strong Irish connections since 1800 when a Dublin family called Kenney arrived in England and James Kenney took it over.  Under his management, some of the most influential English establishment figures of the day retired behind the club's portals to indulge in gaming, drinking and other pursuits.  And the Kenney family themselves went on to make a mark on the literary life of the English capital.

Among James Kenney's family was his 20-year-old son, also called James.  His father wanted him to become a banker.  So he took a job at the banking house of Herries, Farquhar and Co.  But young James Kenney loved theatre and wanted to write.

Aged only 23, his first two-act farce, called Raising the Wind, was staged.  He became one of the most prolific and popular playwrights of the early 19th century, producing over 40 dramas and operas and numerous songs and poems.  One of his plays, The Pledge, had a command performance before the young Queen Victoria.   

Later in life Kenney developed a nervous affliction, which, coupled with his Dublin accent, caused some Londoners to mistake him for an escaped lunatic.  His sons had to rescue him from being incarcerated. It was a scene worthy of one of Kenney's own farces.

Kennys Who Dispersed

There were eight children of William and Marcella Kenny of Ballinasloe in eastern Galway where William worked as a coroner.  They scattered in the famine years.  

The youngest son Edward made it to Salem, Massachusetts.  However, he had lost touch with his brothers and sisters who had also crossed the Atlantic.  Maria was thought to be in Philadelphia and James and Bridget in Baltimore.  It is not known whether he received any reply to the advert he placed in the Boston Pilot in 1850 looking for their whereabouts.  

Meanwhile, another brother Patrick had already departed for Australia in 1842.   James did resurface and joined him in Australia, as did another brother William Thomas.

Reader Feedback - Kennys of Treanmanagh

I am a descendant of the Kennys of Treanmanagh in Ibrickane, county Clare.  According to my family documents which date from late 1800's and were written using the oral histories of older members from the family then in their 90's, these Kennys were not of English descent nor were they O'Kennys from Galway. Instead they were the Cork MacKennys.  The MacKennys to my knowledge died out in the male line. They said they were originally from the Kinsale area and had moved to Waterford.  

The first Kenny of Treanmanagh and Dysert was Mathias Kenny.  His sons were:

  • David of Treanmanagh
  • James the Archdeacon of Kilfenora
  • Edmond of Carhue and Dysert
  • and John. 
From Edmond a famous descendant was Judge William Kenny, a Unionist MP.  From John came Mathias who acquired Freagh Castle through marriage and Matthew J. Kenny who was for a time a Parnellite MP.  General Thomas Kelly-Kenny was a descendant through grandson David.  The Quinlivan mayors of Limerick were also Kenny descendants through David's sister Margaret.  

Margaret Gallery (

General Thomas Kelly-Kenny

Thomas Kelly-Kenny was born Thomas Kelly in 1840 at Treanmanagh in county Clare.  He later took the surname Kelly-Kenny upon inheriting the Treanmanagh estates of his uncle, Mathias Kenny. 

At 18 he embarked on a military career which began in India and ended with distinction in the Boer War.  In contrast to many senior military figures who were aristocrats who saw war as a sport, Kelly-Kenny worked his way up through the ranks and was respected by the rank and file soldiers.

He ended up being a highly decorated soldier.  His orders, decorations and medals included the Star of a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, the Royal Victorian Order, the Queen Victoria Jubilee medal, the Order of The Red Eagle of Prussia, and the Order of The Rising Sun awarded by the Mikado, the Emperor of Japan.  He was in his later years an adviser and friend to King George V.

Edward Kenny in Halifax

Edward Kenny had become a wealthy merchant in Halifax, Nova Scotia by the 1850’s.   He built a grand house, Thornvale, on the North West Arm of the waterfront.   One son Thomas married into the commercial elite in New York.   Another son Edward died at sea in 1870.  Of his six surviving sons, three joined the family firm and three others, after some hesitation, opted for careers in the Jesuit order. 

Halifax at that time was a very stratified society with an Anglo-Protestant ascendancy.  Kenny became an active champion of the Irish Catholic cause, being a close friend of Archbishop Connolly and serving as president of the Charitable Irish Society.  He staunchly backed Reformer Joseph Howe in his 1840’s campaign to bring responsible government to Nova Scotia, but broke ranks and joined the Tories in the 1850’s when Howe assailed religion in politics.  Politics was still alive at that time with sectarian and ethnic jealousies. 

Edward Kenny was notoriously laconic as a public speaker.  But his wealth, personality, and extensive social contacts made him extraordinarily useful to Irish Catholics in Halifax at this time.

Kenney, Illinois

The village of Kenney, Illinois was filed in 1871 by Moses Kenney in honor of his father, James Kenney.  It was incorporated in 1875.  

As one looks backward to the conditions as they existed at that particular time, one cannot but admire the courage of Moses Kenney in the undertaking of such a project as a new town.  The town of Franklin, located just three miles to the north and east, was already in existence with three small stores, blacksmith shop, flour mill, saw mill, post office and school.  Also three miles to the north was another small town with stores, blacksmith shop and schools. 

The only thing Moses Kenney had in his favor was a railroad.  That proved to be enough, however.  Kenney began to "grow like a weed" and in only a few years became one of the best and most widely known small towns in the entire state.  Moses Kenney did not live to see his dream fulfilled as he died four years later in 1875.

Kenney doesn't have many people today.  But it does have a Heritage Society and a small local museum to preserve the past.

Kennys and Kenneys Today

The following are the approximate numbers of Kenny and Kennys today.

Country (000's)

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