Keats Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Keats Meaning
Keats is an old English surname found mainly in the
west country. Its origins are
uncertain. There have been two

  • that it was derived from the
    Old English cyte meaning a hut,
    shed or outhouse for cattle or sheep. Thus
    the name might describe
    someone who
    worked as a cattleman or sheep-herder.
  • that it was derived from the
    Old English cyta meaning kite or bird.
    Here the surname would have developed as a
    nickname for someone who is greedy.

Cornwall has the similar-sounding
Keast surname which may have derived from kest,
meaning a straw basket

Keats Resources on

Keats Ancestry

The Keates or Keats name appeared in
Oxfordshire, at Sulham House, in the 1530’s and, in the next century,
Childrey nearby in Berkshire. But Keats
is mainly a name of SW England.

SW England. Dorset has had the largest
numbers of

  • the main line here has been at Corfe Castle,
    starting with Robert Keate in 1633 and John and Sarah Keats who were
    married there
    in 1701.
  • a Keates family has been
    quarrying limestone at Purbeck since the late 1600’s.
    Keates Quarries are still in operation today.
  • Ann
    , a heroine at the Battle of Waterloo, was born at
    Fordington in
  • and there were Keats living at Bockhampton since the
    1760’s and were there at
    the time of the writer Thomas Hardy.
“William Keates or Keats, the original of Tranter Dewy in
Under the Greenwood Tree, lived on one
half of the cottage next door to the Hardy family; and his brother
lived just along from them.”

Somerset had the Keats family of Wiveliscombe starting in the late 1700’s with the Rev. Richard Keats, headmaster at Blundells School at Tiverton. His son Admiral Sir Richard Keats was a distinguished British naval officer.

Dr. William Keate was an
apothecary in Wells and its mayor in 1757.
His sons Thomas and Robert had distinguished careers as
surgeons; while
John was the
Head Master at Eton College.

Meanwhile the Cornish Keast sometimes became
Keate or Keats.

John Keats. The
poet John Keats
was born in London, the son of Thomas Keats who worked
there as
an ostler at stables attached to the Swan
and Hoop
inn. Thomas died in 1804
when John Keats was just nine years old.
His origins are uncertain and various linkages have been

  • one connects him to the Keats of Corfe
    Castle or to the Keats at Bockhampton
  • another theory has him hailing from
    Cornwall (Sennen
    near Lands End)
  • or his origins
    might in fact have been in London.

Thomas Mower Keats, a hat manufacturer in
London, did have some contact with the Keats family, although he
himself went
bankrupt in 1818. But his son Frederick
Keats did well as the part-owner of the Fortnum
& Mason
emporium and was Sheriff of London in 1856. Two years later he was involved in divorce proceedings

America. George Keats,
younger brother of the poet, left England for America in 1818 and
settled in Louisville, Kentucky. George invested there in a
steamboat and a sawmill and later in property, culminating with the
Louisville Hotel in 1836. Louisville honored his accomplishments
by naming a residential street Keats Avenue.

Canada. Admiral Sir Richard Keats was the Governor of
Newfoundland from 1813 to 1816. But the
Keats name, probably brought by Dorset seamen, existed in Newfoundland
before that time.

John Cats or Cates,
variant names of Keats, was an early settler with his family at
Bonavista in
1677. Among later Keats in Newfoundland were:

  • John Keates a Justice at the fishing port of Ferryland in
  • William Keate recorded at
    Trinity Bay in 1765
  • Robert Keats recorded at Bonavista in 1794
  • and
    Samuel Keates at Castle Cove in Bonavista Bay
    in 1856.

tended to be pronounced “Cates” in Newfoundland.

One line in Newfoundland was apparently related
to the poet John Keats. His nephew, also
named John, came to Newfoundland, married, but returned to England
after his
wife died. John’s son Thomas, however,
started a fishery supply business in Argentina which his grandson Thomas

The main Keats settlement has
been at Bonavista. Keats Island in
Bonavista Bay commemorates these Keats.
In more recent times Ted Keats grew up in the
Bonavista Bay area and became a mineral prospector.


Select Keats Miscellany

The Keats Family of Wiveliscombe.  The Keats family diaries and papers here covered the period from 1746 to 1839.  The forebear of this Somerset family was the Rev. Richard Keats, headmaster at Blundells School in Tiverton from 1775 to 1797.  He died in 1812.

Attention then turned
to his son Sir Richard Goodwin Keats, an Admiral in the British Navy.

As a young officer in the Navy, the Admiral had the
Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) under his wing and a lifelong
friendship ensued. Numerous letters from
the Duke exist in the deposit, but notes by the Admiral indicate that
he had
destroyed those containing anything of a political or controversial

The family papers
also extended to two nephews of the Admiral.
One was Colonel John Smith Keats, whose diaries and accounts
(including periods
in South Africa) were included in the deposit.
Another nephew William Abraham Keats joined the Navy and also
became an
Admiral.  He died at his home at Porthill
near Bideford in Devon in 1874.

The Keats of Wiveliscombe also included the local vicar – the Rev. Richard Keats who had been born in 1791.  On
January 5 1820, as reported in the local newspaper, he was crossing the border
from Wiveliscombe to Tiverton in Devon when he fell with his horse into a ditch full of snow.

“Mr. K dismounted, but was then precipitated into the
snow to a
depth that confined him to the spot.  A
few minutes had elapsed when a laborer appeared to have been sent
thither to
render that part of the road passable.

But Mr. K’s hopes of relief were baffled by the deafness of the
man to
whom calls for assistance were ineffectually made.

In this predicament an
ingenious resource suggested itself.  Mr.
K supplied himself with snowballs which he threw towards the laborer
and thus
attracted the attention of which he was so much in need.
The man came to the spot and with his spade
successfully applied himself to the liberation of the snow-bound
prisoner.  He with his horse completed the
remainder of
his journey in safety.”

In 1834 the Rev.
Richard Keats was presented with the living at the Northfleet parish in
Gravesend, Kent.  The offer came from the
King, William IV, undoubtedly through the influence of Admiral Sir
Keats who was then stationed nearby at Greenwich.

Ann Keats, Waterloo Heroine.  The inscription on her gravestone at the churchyard in
Piddlehinton in Dorset reads as follows:

“She was a Waterloo heroine who assisted at the famous
battle in 1815 by aiding and assisting the sick and wounded.  She
endured many hardships, having followed the British army from Brussels
to Paris.  From Paris to Dunney she returned to England and from
thence to the Rock of Gibraltar where she remained for four

She afterwards resided in this parish where she received a pension
through the instrumentality of Colonel Astell.  With that of many
other officers by whose kindness this stone is raised as a tribute of
respect to a long life spent in true and faithful service.”

Ann was born in Fordington
in 1794 and married James Winzor there in 1811.
James later enlisted in the Army – probably in either the 12th
and 13th
Light Dragoons that were based at the Fordington barracks – and Ann
him when they mobilized.  That would
explain her presence at the Battle of Waterloo.

Wellington lost around 15,000
dead of his force at Waterloo.  As one
eye-witness reported: “The multitude of carcasses, the heaps of wounded
with mangled limbs unable to move and perishing from not having their
wounds dressed
or from hunger formed a spectacle I shall never forget.”

The 12th had six officers and 106 men killed
or wounded; the 13th ten officers and 80 men killed or wounded.  They must have been Ann’s primary attention.

John Keats’ Upbringing.  John Keats had a difficult upbringing.  It was his mother’s side, the Jennings, which
provided most of the early family support.

His father Thomas in fact worked as
an ostler at the Swan and Hoop inn which his maternal grandfather John
Jennings owned.  In April 1804, when
Keats was eight, his father died. The cause of death was a skull
suffered when he fell from his horse while returning from a visit to
Keats and
his brother George at school.

His mother Frances remarried two months later,
abandoning her children.  She later left
her new husband and returned to the family fold destitute and
disease-ridden.  In March 1810, when
Keats was 14, she died of tuberculosis.

Her children were then left in the
custody of their grandmother Alice Jennings.
That autumn John Keats started an apprenticeship with Thomas
Hammond, a
surgeon and apothecary who was a neighbor and the doctor of the

In 1815 Keats moved to London, registering at Guy’s
Hospital for courses
in dressing, a step towards licensure as a surgeon. A year later he
medicine for poetry.  His Poems,
released that year, were not a
success.  But importantly he won the
respect of Leigh Hunt and his literary circle who encouraged him in his

On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer.  John Keats wrote this sonnet in 1816.

“Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific — and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.”

Frederick Keats’ Divorce.  Frederick Keats, aged 46 and a widower with three children, married Esther Marett, aged 30 with no fortune, in 1854.  They lived in some splendor at their town house in London and country estate in Oxfordshire.
In 1857 they toured the Continent and then made
their home in Brighton.

Frederick was often away on business and Esther must
have got bored.  She formed a
relationship with Don Pedro de Montezuma, a Spaniard “of great musical
talents.”  They ran off together to
Dublin where they posed as husband and wife.
Don Pedro later disappeared.

In the divorce proceedings that followed,
Frederick’s lawyer argued:

“It cannot be imputed to a man who is immersed in
business that he is neglecting his wife and has not a proper affection
for her
because he attends to that business.
What would become of MP’s who remained at Westminster until all
hours of
the morning?  What about barristers who
go on circuit for over a month twice a year?
This cannot mean they give their wives almost a license to
attentions from other men.”

Frederick was
granted his divorce.

Ted Keats and Prospecting in Newfoundland.  Ted Keats was born in 1919 at Port Blandford on
Bonavista Bay in Newfoundland.  His father
died when he was two and Ted began working in the woods and on the land
from a
very early age.  He didn’t go to school
and never learned to read or write.  Instead he culled a living
from rural
Newfoundland where he could turn his hand to many tasks, from trapping
to boat

Ever adaptable, Ted Keats was
fifty when he entered the field of mineral exploration.
In 1969 Noranda Explorations opened an office
in Gander and Ted and his son Allan thought that the company might be
interested in the long-lost silver mine of his grandfather.

Noranda, intrigued, gave them $250 each,
loaded them and a canoe in a floatplane, and flew them to the upper
Terra Nova

“They spent a month, month
and a half, and came out in mid-November.
They shot caribou when they needed something to eat, caught
rabbits.  The boys were used to living
off the land. They came out by canoe and they came in with some

Noranda flew in to
investigate and confirmed finds of mineralization.
Later Ted Keats trained as a geophysical
operator.  His sons and grandsons
followed in his footsteps.  Ted is
now considered the patriarch of the province’s first family of

Keats died in 2010, leaving behind nine sons and
daughters and 114 grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and


Select Keats and Like Surnames

These are the names of some literary giants.  If you are interested in the name behind the literary figure, please click on the surname below.



Keats Names

  • Sir Richard Keats was a British naval
    officer who fought through the American Revolution, the French Revolutionary
    War, and the Napoleonic Wars. 
  • John Keats was a much-loved English Romantic poet who
    died in 1821 at the young age of twenty five. 
  • Ezra Jack Keats (originally Katz), born in New York to Jewish immigrant parents, was a popular writer and illustrator of children’s books.

Select Keats Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Dorset)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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