Keays of Limerick, Tipperary, Cork and Beyond. A Family History from 1700 to Today.


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Keays of Limerick, Tipperary,Cork and Beyond

A Family History from 1700 to Today

In 1993, my mother, Rose Erin Keas Wood, came to me with a request. “Can you find the ancestry of Henry Keas”, her father, whose family came from Co. Limerick, Ireland. Now, the first thing that went through my mind was not “what an interesting project”, but rather, why me? I knew nothing about genealogy, and had never known my grandfather, who died when I was a child. Her rationale for choosing me? I was the oldest grandchild, I wasn't afraid to drive on the other side of the road in Ireland and most importantly, I had spent some 15 years working for the State of Michigan in an investigative capacity. Ergo, I must have some skill at digging up dead people. That should have been my first clue that I would be dealing with a group who potentially could give new meaning to the word eccentricity. My mother must have been on to something, though, because her request set me on a trail that has now lasted 9 years and moved far beyond my long deceased grandfather.

I quickly developed the notion that anyone in Co. Limerick who had the surname Keas, or any of the myriad of spellings for it that I uncovered (Keays, Keayes, Kyes, Keyes, Keys, Kayes, Kees, Keyse) had to be related to me. My research showed that there seemed to be 2 pockets of the surname in Co. Limerick, a group in the Abington and Caherconlish civil parishes who appeared to be related to each other, and then my group, located in the Patrickswell area. So, if they were related to me, I was going to find them.

Unfortunately, while no direct connection has ever been made between the 2 groups, what started out as trying to find my own ancestry has resulted in a fascination, not with my own ancestry, but with the other guy--the group from Abington and Caherconlish. I mean, who wouldn't be intrigued by a group of people who seemed to marry only the Frosts, Daggs, Powells and McCutcheons of Ireland? And then insisted that their descendants marry back into the Keays line! Where else would I find people who left such interesting wills, such as Thomas who directed that his son George not marry Adelaide Frost, under penalty of disinheritance. And not only could George not marry Adelaide, he had to marry a Protestant woman of good Protestant stock. George obeyed on all counts. And then promptly died, leaving his childless widow to inherit everything. She just as promptly remarried (to George's cousin, one of the aforementioned Powells), and with stunning alacrity, then died herself. Leaving everything to Mr. Powell, who didn't have a will threatening disinheritance hanging over him, so he married his Catholic housekeeper. Yes, this group from Abington and Caherconlish is the stuff that genealogists dream of--a family who manages to be illustrious and infamous, often at the same time.

This website is the result of that fascination. The research has turned up medical doctors galore, horse trainers and horse breeders, adventurers, probably a couple of reprobates (I have trouble believing that Christopher Keays of Gortmore, Co. Tipperary knew nothing about that illicit still on his land), and even a couple of politicians. Along the way, we discovered descendants in Co. Cork and Tipperary, South Africa, Rhodesia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England and America. We went from knowing only about 2 men, brothers William and Richard, who arrived in Abington about 1740 to help build the Anglican chapel there, to having a family tree of nearly 2500 descendants and growing. And best of all, when the current crop of children in the family have to do their autobiographies, they can start their story out with the catchy phrase, "I come from an eccentric family."

This website would not have come about without the combined assistance of a number of people, descendants of those original brothers, nearly all of whom have never met each other, except through the modern technology of email, but didn't let it stop them from having raging debates on how so and so fit into the family or why Aunt Jane left the money for the family vault but then chose to be buried in a totally different cemetery. The main people who have contributed to the information you find here are Brian Bresnihan, Paddy Keays, Mike Keyes (all in Ireland), Linda Hansen (New Zealand and Switzerland), Linda Keays Stuart and Mike Smith (United States), Gary Keays (Canada), Greg and Andrew Keays and Wendy Jack (all in Australia), Alan Brick (S. Africa), and Margaret McBride, Limerick Regional Archives. Should you discover a long lost relative in our index, please contact us, we want to be remembered in some hilarious wills ourselves.

Cindy Wood.


FOOTNOTE: Apart from names, the birth dates and several other vital details for living members, have been purposely omitted from this site.
© 2002 Keays Family Project
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