This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and has two possible sources. Firstly, the name may derive from the Olde English pre 7th Century "cyte", Middle English "kete", a kite, bird of prey belonging to the falcon family, and would have been a nickname given to a fierce or rapacious person. The creation of surnames from nicknames was a common practice in the Middle Ages, and many modern-day surnames derive from medieval nicknames referring to personal characteristics. Richard Kyte is noted in the 1243 Assize Court Rolls of Somerset. Secondly, the surname may be topographical for a dweller by some kind of shed or outhouse for cattle and sheep, so it may also denote a herdsman. The derivation in this instance is from the Olde English "cyte", hut. Ralph atte Kete is listed in the Place-Names of Kent (1292). In the modern idiom the surname has many spelling variations ranging from Keat, Keet and Keit, to Keytt, Kett and Kyte. On June 8th 1623, Mary, daughter of Henry and Joyce Kett, was christened at St. Michael Cornhill, London. One of the earliest settlers in the New World was Robert Kett, aged 22 yrs., who departed from the Port of London bound for St. Christophers and the Barbadoes, in January 1634. A Coat of Arms granted to the family is gold, on a fesse between three blue leopards heads erased and cabossed, a silver lion passant guardant, the Crest being a leopards head erased as in the Arms. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ailnoth Kete, which was dated 1166, in the "Pipe Rolls of Norfolk", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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