According to the Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania, published in 1909, Michael and Ellen Kean immigrated to America from Ireland in 1845.[i] Family historian Mary O’Rourke has concluded that daughters Bright, Margaret, and Mary had arrived as early as 1843, and younger sons Michael, Patrick, and Thomas arrived with their parents in 1845 or 1846.[ii]

The Keans settled near Lake Como in Buckingham Township, Wayne County, Pennsylvania. All six children married and settled through Pennsylvania and New York.[iii] (Future genealogists should refer to O’Rourke’s research notes, which corrects and clarifies errors found in the Commemorative Biographical Record, including potentially two additional daughters).

Thomas Kane (1829- after 1900) was a prominent citizens of Oakland township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. He was educated in Ireland before arriving in America with his parents in his late teens. He married Ellen Kelley (c. 1832 – 1895) in 1852 and the couple made a home on the Kean family farm. They had twelve children, ten of whom would reach adulthood.

In 1873, the family farm was sold, bringing Thomas and Ellen to Oakland.

In Oakland, Thomas established a successful dairy farm. In his later year, Thomas lost his hearing and Ellen took over much of the business management. When she passed in 1895, Thomas’s sons Thomas (1864-1935) and William (1870-?) assumed management responsibilities.

Thomas was a political Democrat and committed to the Roman Catholic Church throughout his lifetime. He was remembered as “highly respected” and having “a large circle of friends” throughout the area.[iv]


Thomas and Ellen’s third son was John James Kane (1855-1934). John began work at United Natural Gas in 1883, where he would work for 40 years, assuming a managerial role.[v]

John married Susan Ryan in 1885.[vi] They had four children together.[vii]

John and Susan’s second son (1887-1954) bore his father’s name, but was known as J.J. He was of medium build with blue eyes and brown hair.[viii] Sometime between 1918 and 1942, he lost his right thumb, but the cause is not known.[ix]

J.J. served in World War I in General Pershing’s headquarters troop in Gondrecourt, France from September 1918 to June 1919.[x]

Like his father, J.J. had a dedicated career with the United Gas Company for over forty years, penultimately serving as Chief Engineer.[xi]

J.J. was active in his community, serving as a director of the school board for twenty years, judge of election, and president of the P.T.A.[xii]

One can only assume that it was his wife, Annabel Pytcher, who influenced is involvement in education. Annabel passed her teacher’s exam for the State of Pennsylvania in 1915, with specializations in management, drawing, and botany.[xiii]

Annabel and J.J.’s union marked a distinct moment in American history, like many other marriages of this time. Annabel’s came from a line of settler-colonial ancestors, who had made a home in America for centuries, whereas J.J. was just two generations removed from immigration. Annabel’s mother was against her daughter marrying a Catholic and refused to attend the wedding. Nonetheless, the marriage went on and Annabel converted to marry J.J. on June 14, 1922.[xiv]

Following Annabel’s passing, J.J. remarried in 1946, making a home with Nellie Bradford (likely her surname from a previous marriage) in Mt. Jewett, Pennsylvania.[xv]

The Kanes in America continued to meet for annual family reunions in Wayne County, PA, bringing together generations of descendants of Michael and Ellen Kean. These family reunions continue to this day.[xvi]

Note on Surnames

According to family historian Kay O’Rourke, Kean or Keane was the Irish spelling of the surname. The gravestone of Michael Kean (c. 1870 – c. 1850) bears the spelling “Kean.” However, the name was anglicized to Kane upon arrival in America. I have adopted “Kean” when referring to ancestors born in Ireland and “Kane” for those born in the U.S.

Sources & Footnotes

[i] Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Including the Counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe. Published by J. H. Beers & Co., 1909 (retrieved April 4, 2022 from Archive.org)

[ii] O’Rourke, Mary “Kay”. “The Case for Correcting the Record: Michael & Ellen Kean*/Kane’s Family of Wayne County.” January 19, 2019 (obtained April 4, 2022 from Ancestry.com)

[iii] Beers 509.

[iv] Beers 510.

[v] Searchers: The Ancestors and Descendants of John and Annabel (Pytcher) Kane by Jeffrey A. Forsythe, 1991 (in possession of Jean Kane, obtained 02 February 2019)

[vi] John Kane & Susan Ryan Marriage License (obtained February 27, 2022 from Ancestry.com)

[vii] Forsythe 281.

[viii] World War I Draft Card, John James Kane (obtained 06 February 2019 from Ancestry.com)

[ix] World War II Draft Card, John James Kane (obtained 06 February 2019 from Ancestry.com)

[x] John J. Kane, Jr. Record of Burial Place of Veteran (obtained 7 May 2018 from Ancestry.com)

[xi] “Mt. Jewett Man to be Retired Nov. 1 by UNG.” The Kane Republican. October 23, 1952. Page 2. (obtained 29 March 2021 from Newspapers.com)

[xii] “Mt. Jewett Man to be Retired Nov. 1 by UNG.” The Kane Republican. October 23, 1952. Page 2. (obtained 29 March 2021 from Newspapers.com)

[xiii] Annabel Pytcher Teaching Certificate (from the possessions of Jean (Viviano) Kane)

[xiv] Forsythe 293.

[xv] “Mt. Jewett Man to be Retired Nov. 1 by UNG.” The Kane Republican. October 23, 1952. Page 2. (obtained 29 March 2021 from Newspapers.com)

[xvi] Correspondence with Christopher MacMurray, February 2022.