The surname of KEEPER was originally a locational name meaning 'the dweller at the keep' a dungeon or stronghold of a castle. Perhaps the original bearer of the name was a jailor or warder. Early records of the name mention Richard atte Kep who was documented in the year 1300 in County Yorkshire and Thomas ate Kepe appears in 1327 in County Sussex. Roger Kep of County Somerset, was documented during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). William atte Kep of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of the year 1379. The earliest hereditary surnames in England are found shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and are of Norman French origin rather than native English. On the arrival of the Normans they identified themselves by references to the estates from which they came in northern France. These names moved rapidly on with their bearers into Scotland and Ireland. Others of the Norman Invaders took names from the estates in England which they had newly acquired. Many factors contributed to the establishment of a surname system. For generations after the Norman Conquest of 1066 a very few dynasts and magnates passed on hereditary surnames, but the main of the population, with a wide choice of first-names out of Celtic, Old English, Norman and Latin, avoided ambiguity without the need for a second name. As society became more stabilized, there was property to leave in wills, the towns and villages grew and the labels that had served to distinguish a handful of folk in a friendly village were not adequate for a teeming slum where perhaps most of the householders were engaged in the same monotonous trade, so not even their occupations could distinguish them, and some first names were gaining a tiresome popularity, especially Thomas after 1170. The hereditary principle in surnames gained currency first in the South, and the poorer folk were slower to apply it. By the 14th century however, most of the population had acquired a second name. Later instances of the name include Henry Keepe of County Berkshire who registered at Oxford University in 1617 and Peter, son of Thomas Keep was baptised at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1661. Thomas Nelson married Johanna Keep at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1743. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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