The Keep Family
Keeps Worldwide
British & Irish Keeps 
Counties in Lower England 

This data was taken from Parish records to show where Keeps were located during the century. You will note from the list of counties below that it provides only an indication of the spread, and not the density of the Keep population in the county. Gloucestershire, for example, only recorded one event, the marriage of Robert to Anne Wadley in 1696. Whilst this is after the death of John Keep of Longmeadow, it does indicate a Keep presence in Gloucestershire during the 1600s. What the spread shows is that John’s ancestry could originate from a wide and diverse area.

1. Bedfordshire

6. Devon






Little Addington

Blunham with Mogerhanger




Great Barford





7. Essex  





South Hykeham


Old Warden

Great Burstead





Westborough Cum Doddington

16. Nottinghamshire











St Andrew, Holborn



8. Gloucestershire  

St Augustine with St Faith

North Clifton



St Botolph without Aldergate




St Brides


Compton near Newbury

9. Hampshire           

St Christopher Le Stocks




St Dunstan, Stepney

17. Oxfordshire

Hinton Waldrist


St Gregory by St Paul



10. Herefordshire

St James, Clerkenwell




St James, Duke Place

18. Somerset



St Katherine by the Tower

North Petherton


11. Hertfordshire

St Margaret, Westminster


Stanford Dingley


St Martins in the Field

19. Staffordshire

Stanford in the Vale

Ayot Saint Lawrence

St Martin, Ludgate

West Bromwich

Sutton Courtenay


St Mary, Marylebone




St Mary, Whitechapel

20.  Sussex



St Mary, Woolnoth


West Hanney

12. Leicestershire

St Nicholas Cole Abbey


West Hendred

Melton Mowbray

St Olave Hart Street

21. Warwickshire



St Paul Covent Garden



13. Lincolnshire

St Stephen & St Benet Sherehog

Bishop Itchington

3. Buckinghamshire         


St Sepulchre


Stoke Poges


St Thomas the Apostle

22. Wiltshire




Bishop Canning

4. Cambridgeshire            


15. Northamptonshire



Brant Broughton




Deeping St James

Earls Barton


5. Cornwall                        




Budock & St Dominick


Higham Ferrers



The Keep Family
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Walter Kep, English History
The East Midlands Keeps
The North Amercan
Keep Families
The European
Keep Families
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Keep Families
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Keep Families
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These pages are devoted to family histories and other items of interest about the British and Irish Keep families.



The Spread of Keep Families in England During the 1600s

Our Saxon Connections Explored


During his research into the Keep family, Philip Keep of Norwich, England, consulted the Liber Winton, a survey of Winchester compiled in 1110, during the reign of Henry I, which had the following entry:

“In gerestret … Ulward Cheppe reddebat xviii d et consuetudinem TRE Modo Willrlmus scutarius debet idem”.

Which reads:

“In Gere Street … Wulfward Cheppe paid 18 pence and the custom in the time of King Edward now William the Ragman owes the same”.

According to Philip, the list of Saxon tenants in Winchester was compiled from a census conducted in 1056 during the reign of Edward the Confessor, which means that Wulfward Cheppe was a Saxon tenant at the time of the survey living in Gere Street, also known as Gerestrete or Garstret, Winchester.  He was one of 144 householders rendering their customary dues. The street remains today in Winchester, but it has now been renamed Trafalgar Street.

Unlike today’s standard orthography of one word, one spelling, this did not occur in Old English, so the Anglo-Saxons used a phonetic system.  In Old English a “k” sounded like “ch”; therefore, Wulfward Cheppe would have been Wulfward Keppe.  This demonstrates that a byname sounding like Keep was an established hereditary surname in England during the eleventh century.

The Doomsday Survey, which was completed in 1086, was commissioned by William the Conqueror to assess what taxes were due to him.  The title comes from the Old English word “Dom”, which means accounting or reckoning.  An entry for Hertfordshire shows a freeman “Kip”, more than likely a Saxon, was the tenant of a mill in Sawbridgeworth, rated a 20s that was owned by a Norman nobleman, Lord Geoffrey de Manderville.  Philip found other local references to support his theory that Keep was an established surname.  In 1229 a Ralph Kepe was noted as a merchant of Waterford, which is a village north of Hertford and six miles from Sawbridgeworth.  In 1259 a Ralph Kepe was shown at Beauchamp Roding, which is just over the county border in Essex, and eight miles away from Sawbridgeworth. A Robert Keppe was unlawfully killed in Hereford in 1270.  Considering that there was an established Keep family in Hertfordshire during the eleventh century, members of the family could easily have migrated to Buckinghamshire.  There is a possibility that they were the forefathers of Walter Kep.  Likewise he could have descended from Wulfward Cheppe.

The Saxon word “cepe” or “chepe” means “barter”, “merchant” or “the man who lives near the market”.  An example of its usage is Cheapside in London, which from the thirteenth century was a bustling market place for jewellery, shoes, bread, meat, spices, wine, etc.  So contrary to popular belief, did our name derive from our ancestors’ trading activities in the eleventh century, and not as gaolers?

An interesting point with regard to Winchester is that the main street, High Street, was known as Chepe Street in Anglo Saxon times.  Wulfward lived in a side road off of the main street, very close to the Cathedral.

Visit the Walter Kep English History Page and the East Midland Keeps 
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The DNA Project 

I have a very vague memory of meeting the man everyone in the family called Grandsar.  I didn't know who he was nor was I terribly interested.  I was only five at the time and he was very, very old.  Throughout my younger life and into adulthood there were many stories told about him and what he accomplished in his lifetime.  The older I got, the more I listened, and the more I became intrigued by the man.


My uncle was an avid researcher of our family history in the 1970's and 80's and shared everything he found with us.  One of the things he was always very interested in was a small "painting" my father had in the living room. I never paid much attention to it when I was little but later learned it was our family Coat of Arms granted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1565.  I also learned it was brought over from England by Grandsar.  Because of my uncle's enthusiasm about our family history, and the seed he planted in me, I've continued his work.  This is but a fraction of what I've been able to discover about the man known as Grandsar...

Nigel Keep was born February 28, 1873, in Burghfield, Berkshire, England.  He was the youngest child of Richard William and Anna Maria (Courtier) Keep, and would be their last.  At that time, the Berkshire Keeps of my family were wealthy farmers deeply involved in their communities and church. Richard William's brother and their father, both named William, were churchwardens at the Aldermaston church for a combined total of almost sixty-eight years.  A memorial to them still adorns a wall in the middle of the nearly thousand year old church.


Unfortunately, Nigel never knew his mother.  Anna Maria passed away at a quarter to two on the morning of March 18, 1873, a mere eighteen days after his birth.  The cause remains unknown.  In the 1881 England census I find Nigel along with his brothers and sisters, William Richard, Susan Brown, Edith Sarah, and John Palmer living at 130 Portway Place, Wantage.  The children are listed as orphans.  Nigel was all of eight years old then.  Their father, Richard William, had apparently become incapacitated to the point of not being able to care for his children any longer.  Again, the reason is unknown.


Nine years later in March of 1890, Nigel boarded a ship with a cousin, David Edward Hugh Allen, bound for Boston, Massachusetts, their final destination being Grimsby, Ontario, Canada  where the Allen family was living.  Nigel, at the ripe age of seventeen, had decided to leave England and start a new life in Canada.  He was later followed by brother John, in 1893, then his eldest sister, Susan, in 1901, and finally his eldest brother, William, in 1903.  Sister Edith was the only one to stay in England.  Susan stayed in Grimsby and married, William headed west to British Columbia, while John moved to the San Diego area along with four of the Allen cousins.


Nigel stayed in Grimsby with the Allen family.  At age twenty-three he married Emma Mae Millard, then nineteen, at Niagra Falls in September, 1897, and they would spend the next sixty-seven years together.  Nigel carried on with family tradition and had become a fruit farmer.  They had two children together while still living in Canada, Norman Millard and Dorothy Courtier.  Soon after starting his family, Nigel was initiated into the Masonic Temple in Grimsby.  This would be a life-long affiliation with which he ultimately achieved the designation of Master Mason, Third Degree, the highest degree obtainable in Freemasonry.


In 1919, Nigel moved his family to Berkeley, California, where he worked as a nurseryman. The same year, William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, ordered a large shipment of Pear trees from the nursery for one of his properties, La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill) in San Simeon, California.  Today we know it as Hearst Castle. When the shipment arrived, Mr. Hearst stopped in to look it over.  After inspecting the trees together, Nigel refused to sell them to the millionaire.  “The trees are inferior. They're sick,” he told Hearst.  Nigel's employer was extremely upset over his advising Mr. Hearst not to buy the trees. He apparently knew the trees were unhealthy and was just trying to get rid of them.  Later, Nigel told his distraught boss, “Mr. Hearst may buy thousands of trees and shrubs from you, but if you fool him once you're a goner."

Nigel was only schooled until he was sixteen.  He held no college degrees and had no formal training in landscaping or horticulture, but he knew the Latin name of every tree, plant, and flower he ever touched.  Yet, as he put it, “I took bare ground and rocks and rattlesnakes and made a beautiful place.”  He truly did.  I've been to Hearst Castle three times, and it is, in the true sense of the word, awesome.


Nigel had a special way of dealing with the rattlesnakes.  He learned from the local deer to put his feet together and jump up and down on them.  Conversely, he and Hearst were driving around The Hill one day and a gopher snake came out onto the road.  Hearst told Nigel to kill it.  “No,” Nigel said, and pointed to the orange grove. “Without those snakes the gophers would eat the roots of the trees and destroy them.  These snakes live on gophers.”  From that moment forward, by Mr. Hearst's decree, it was strictly forbidden to kill a gopher snake on any of his properties, all of which Nigel worked his magic on, at one point or another.


Nigel had a long and prolific career at Hearst Castle.  He called it his labor of love.  He would be at The Hill at the crack of dawn, cook his morning oatmeal, and then work until dusk.  It's been estimated that during his time there, he and his crew planted over a million trees and plants.  The walnut grove was producing in excess of two tons of nuts and the citrus crop was yielding more than a thousand-dozen of a variety of fruits.  But, of course, all good things come to an end.  After nearly thirty years of service, Nigel retired October 13, 1948.  He was seventy-five. He and Mr. Hearst remained friends until Hearst's death in 1951.


One newspaper interviewer, later in Nigel's life, made the grave mistake of calling him a landscape architect.  Nigel narrowed his blue eyes at the man and said, “I hate that word!  Of all the thousands of trees I've planted I never used a pencil or piece of paper.”  Nigel always simply referred to himself as "a tree planter".  In his last interview, Nigel was quoted as saying, “I love trees and flowers.  I love nature.  When a man loves nature he finds God.  Maybe that's why my life has been so rich.”


Nigel passed away peacefully in his sleep on December 9, 1964.  He was ninety-one years old.  In 1965 the State of California issued a Senate Resolution in memory and recognition of Nigel and his accomplishments, calling what he did at Hearst Castle a horticultural paradise and saying, “Nigel Keep, with the infinite patience and determination of his English ancestors, transformed the barren hillsides and rocky slopes of San Simeon into a verdant panorama.”


Nigel Keep was my great-grandfather.  We still speak of him in my family and always refer to him, with the greatest respect, as Grandsar.  From tragic beginnings, he carved out an extraordinary life for himself using his wits, honesty and integrity, hard work, love of nature, and inherent talents.  I wish I could have known him.
                                                            David Keep
Sacred to the memory of Richard Keep, who deprted this life Sept the 14th 1805:  Aged 48 years.  Also his wife Elizabeth relict of the above:  who departed this life March the 30th 1836:  Aged 67  years.  Also listed are William, Richard's son, and William's wife Sarah.  Also William, Richard's grandson, and his wife Sophia.
Memorial stone in the Aldermaston Church.
 Aldermaston Church, showing stone on right wall 

Because of his knowledge and honesty, Mr. Hearst soon hired Nigel as his chief landscaper and horticulturist.  He was forty-six by that time.  Thus began a life-long friendship and mutual admiration between the two men.  They both had a deep love for trees, plants, and nature in general.  When at the castle, Hearst often invited Nigel to his immense library for afternoon tea. Nigel said in one newspaper interview, “We discussed pretty near everything except politics.  I didn't feel I was equal to discussing politics with him.”


One day Mr. Hearst and Nigel were out on the grounds of the castle, more commonly known as The Hill.  Hearst pointed to a rocky hillside and told Nigel it had always been his dream to see it covered with trees.  “Can you do it for me?” Hearst asked.  Nigel replied, “It'll be expensive.”  Hearst told him, “I don't care what it costs.”  Nigel and his crew of twenty-five men set to work.  They planted 6,335 pine trees, having to use two sticks of dynamite to blast each hole on the rocky slope.  When the new forest was completed, Mr. Hearst called Nigel into his office and said to him, “Mr. Keep, you have performed a miracle for me.”  Nigel was also responsible for planting countless flowerbeds, shrubs, vines, fruit orchards, trees of all kinds, and unrivaled rose gardens.  Much of his work is still visible today.

La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill) in San Simeon, California, now known as Hearst Castle.
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  Nigel Keep of Berkshire
Nigel Keep of Berkshire
Nigel at 90
       John Keep

of Longmeadow

Colonial History

The Keeps  & the English Pub Next Page
New  The Keep Family of Berkshire and North Hampshire
New  The Crime and Trial of Samuel Keep  b1692
New  The Mormon Connection