Keays of Limerick, Tipperary, Cork and
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