Keaton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Keaton Surname Meaning

The surnames Keaton and Keeton is thought to have derived from the place-name Ketton, recorded as Chetene in the 1086 Domesday Book.  As Kiveton the place is to be found in south Yorkshire, close to the borders with Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

The Keeton name developed as a surname primarily in Derbyshire. Keeton is more present in the UK, Keaton in America.  Keaton may have some Irish roots, possibly as a variant of Keating.

Keaton Surname Resources on The Internet

Keaton and Keeton Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Derbyshire)
  • to America and South Africa

England.  There was an early de Keuton family who owned land near present-day Sheffield in Yorkshire from the 14th century. John de Keuton was recorded as a Sergeant of Arms in 1368. These de Keutons sold their estate to Sir William Hewet, the Lord Mayor of London, in 1580.

However, their name continued in Keeton Hall which his descendant the Duke of Leeds built on the land in 1730. In 1811 Keeton Hall was pulled down by the 6th Duke, supposedly on a bet with the Prince of Wales.

Derbyshire.  The Keeton name has been more common in neighboring Derbyshire.

Edward Keeton was recorded in North Wingfield parish around the year 1650. John and Emma Keeton were married in the Eckington parish in 1750 and the Keeton name has continued there. These Keetons were involved in sickle and scythe making in the early 19th century, while some later became coal miners. William Keeton of this family played cricket for Nottinghamshire and England in the 1930’s.

Elsewhere.  In addition to Derbyshire, the Keeton name was also evident in Nottinghamshire and in south Yorkshire around Sheffield. Hadyn Keeton, the organist at Peterborough Cathedral, was born in Sheffield. An estimated 90% of Keetons were to be found in these three counties in the 1881 census.  John Keeton emigrated from Lincolnshire to New York state in 1840.

America. John Keeton was an early arrival, in 1610, in the Jamestown colony in Virginia. Although he seems to have died during the Indian uprising in 1622, his wife Mary and son William survived. Grandson William was recorded as a Quaker in Virginia in 1686. James Keeton was a captain during the Revolutionary War.

Later Keetons migrated to Kentucky and then to Tennessee, settling in Decatur county in the 1830’s. Zachariah Keaton, possibly related, had migrated with two brothers from Virginia to Wayne county, Tennessee earlier in 1809.

Henry Keaton was born either in England or in Virginia sometime in the 1660’s. He was first mentioned in the 1690’s as part of the Quaker community in Pesquotank county, North Carolina. Seven generations of sober Quakers followed, the last of them being Joseph Z. Keaton, a miller who migrated West to Indiana in 1833.

His son Joe was something else. Joe Keaton left home at the age of 26 “with eight bucks and a Winchester rifle” for Oklahoma territory. He ended up in a travelling vaudeville act with his wife, selling patent medicines on the side. Their son Buster Keaton achieved global fame as a comedian during the silent era of movies. The actress Camille Keaton is a distant relative.

Irish?  Another Keaton line, according to family lore, was thought to have come from Ireland. Kader Keaton was a planter by the Ogeechee Creek in South Carolina. His son Kader Jr. migrated to Georgia sometime after the Revolutionary War. William Keaton was a Primitive Baptist minister there in Carroll county.

South Africa.  Benjamin Keeton from Southwell in Nottinghamshire was an 1820 British settler who came on the Albany to South Africa.  He married and settled with his family at Southwell near Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape where he farmed.  Many of his descendants were still living there a hundred years later.

Keaton Surname Miscellany

The de Keuton Family.  The de Keuton (sometime de Kiveton) family first appeared in public records in 1297 as residents of Harthill parish in south Yorkshire.

John de Keuton was a Sergeant of Arms in the locality in 1368.  A John de Kyveton, rector at Radcliffe during the reign of Edward III, bestowed land and rent to Roche Abbey on the condition that the abbot would say mass every day at the chapel of the Holy Trinity in Kiveton.

John Keton was recorded as the clerk at the chapel in 1547.  Nicholas Keeton held the family estate at that time.  However, he was obliged to sell these lands in Harthill parish to Sir William Hewet, the Lord Mayor of London, in 1580.

Keetons in the 1881 Census

County Numbers Percent
Derbyshire    160    35
Nottinghamshire    141    29
Yorkshire    111    24
Elsewhere     52    12
Total    460   100

The most numbers were in Handsworth (33) and Sheffield (25) in Yorkshire, Eckington in Derbyshire (43), and Nottingham (39).

John Keeton the Immigrant.  Details about John Keeton or Keiton the immigrant are sketchy.  He was thought to have been born in Kent, although no family antecedents can be found there.  He may or may not have had a brother named James.  He was one of the early settlers of the Jamestown colony, possibly around 1610. He did marry Mary Pryor, the daughter of William Pryor another early settler, and they did have a son named William.

John Keeton disappears from the Jamestown records in 1622. Was he killed by the Indians on that terrible Good Friday, March 22, 1622, when they slaughtered 347 of the inhabitants? We do not know for sure.  His name did not appear on the official list of victims. However, it is understood that not all of the victims were identified by name.

William Keaton of Carroll County, Georgia.  William Keaton, a Primitive Baptist preacher, was born in Washington City, Georgia in 1813.  When he was three his father Kader died and the family moved to Liberty City. In the lottery of 1827 they drew land in Carroll county where they moved.  William married three times and had eleven children by his first two wives.

Some of his children dispersed around or after the Civil War. The family of Will Keaton, who was born there in 1867, has remained in Carroll county.

Diane Keaton’s Line.  Diane Keaton took her mother’s name of Keaton when she made her acting debut. These Keatons have been traced back to Lemuel West Keaton who was born in Buncombe, North Carolina in 1819.  He died in Kansas in 1891 and it was recorded about him then:

“Lemuel W. Keaton has lived in five other states, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, California and Missouri. Being a Union man it became too disagreeable to longer remain in Missouri so he came to Kansas in 1864, his home since.  In 1858 he united in marriage with Martha M. Maret who shared the blessings of his home until 1880. Eleven children are the fruits of this union, eight of whom are still living. He leaves three grandchildren.

Mr. Keaton has been a great sufferer for years.  His late illness was of such a nature as to prevent lying down to rest; so he kept his chair, and awaited his change with great patience.  During his sickness he told me the mistake of his life had been in neglecting his salvation in youth, but for some time past he had been a daily petitioner at the throne of grace, and now had the assurance of his acceptance as a child of God.”

Kansas was where Diane Keaton’s mother Dorothy was born in 1921.  Her parents drifted to California when she was three and they ended up in Pasadena.   She was sixteen when her father departed the family.  She later married and raised her family in Orange county.  She was a beautiful woman, a winner in the Mrs. America contest and widely talented.

Keaton Names

  • Buster Keaton was an American actor, comedian, and stuntman during the silent movie era.
  • Diane Keaton, born Diane Hall, is a well-known American actress. She took her mother’s maiden name for her acting career.
  • Michael Keaton is the stage name of Michael Douglas, an American actor and comedian.

Keaton Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous in Derbyshire)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio)


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Written by Colin Shelley

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