This interesting surname may derive from a number of possible origins. Firstly, the name may be of Anglo-Saxon origin, as a nickname for a brave or proud person, from the Olde English pre 7th Century "cene", Middle English "kene", fierce, brave, proud. However, Keen may perhaps have originated from the Middle English personal name "Kene", a short form of any of the various Olde English personal names with the first lement "cene" or "cyne", royal, from "cyning", chieftain, king. Finally, the surname may be a variant of "Keane", of Old Gaelic origin, and the Anglicized form of the Gaelic "O'Cathain", the male descendant of Cathan, a personal name from "cath", battle; this sept were located in West Clare. In the modern idiom the surname can be found recorded as Keen, Keene, Keenes and Keens. The surname was first recorded in the early 13th Century (see below), and other early recordings include: Hugo Kene (Worcestershire, 1221), and Richard le Kene (Oxfordshire, 1297). Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas and Dorothy Keen, was christened on September 3rd 1635, at St. Dunstan in the East, London. Sir Benjamin Keene (1697 - 1757) was the British ambassador in Madrid (1727, and 1748 - 1757), and negotiated the treaty of Seville in 1729. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Adam Kene, which was dated 1207, in the "Hundred Rolls of Suffolk", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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