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Keam Coat of Arms / Keam Family Crest

This surname of KEAM was of French origin, originally rendered in the Old Latin form CAMMUS, meaning a maker of an undergarment worn by both men and women, a shirt; used also of a priest's surplice, a herald's robe. The earliest of the name on record appears to be Adam le Camhus, who was recorded in 1256 in County Northumberland. The name was probably brought into England in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1066. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. Later instances of the name include Matillis de Camios, who was documented in Surrey in 1273, and Adam Keame of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. The name was found in Ireland at an early date where it was Gaelicized to MacSheamus. 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.

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Last Updated: Dec. 1st, 2021

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