Recorded as atte Keep, de Keep, Keep, Kepe, and Keepe, this interesting surname is of early medieval English origin. It was residential and described a person who lived at a castle as in de Keep, or possibly it was occupational and may perhaps have described a jailer. In which case the origin is the Middle English word "keep", from the verb "keepen", meaning to hold or possibly defend. This surname first appeared in records in the late 13th Century (see below), and early recordings include: Thomas ate Kepe in the 1327 Subsidy Court rolls of Sussex; Roger Kep was listed in Kirby's Quest for Somerset in 1328; and Robert de Keepe was recorded in the Subsidy Tax Rolls of Cumberland in 1332.Recordings from London Church Registers include: the christening of John, son of William Kepe, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney; the christening of the daughter of William Keppe at St. Mary Magdalene, Bermodsey, on June 16th 1583; and the christening of Mary Keep in 1681, at St. Martin in the Fields, Westminster. A Coat of Arms granted to a Keep family had the blazon of a gold field charged with a red fesse and on a canton, a galley with oars in action. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William atte Kep. This was dated 1290, in the "Close Rolls Records", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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