Keith History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms 

A family in the Pictish tribe of ancient Scotland was the first to use the name Keith. They lived in the lands of Keith in the county of East Lothian. Traditionally the Keiths were descended from Robert, an early Chieftain of the Catti tribe, and possibly one of the earliest settlers in Scotland. Robert joined King Malcolm II at the battle of Panbridge, in 1006, against Camus, leader of the Danes. Robert slew Camus for which King Malcolm granted Robert the hereditary title of Marshall of Scotland, with a barony in Lothian and the island of Inskeith in the gulf of Edinburgh. It is for this title that the Keiths are sometimes known as the Marshalls, and many Clansmen adopted that name.

Early Origins of the Keith family

The surname Keith was first found in Haddingtonshire where Harvey Keith, successor of the aforementioned Robert inherited the office of Marshal late in the 13th century, but was imprisoned by the English until 1304. On his release he became one of four Deputy Wardens of Scotland. He joined the cause of King Robert the Bruce, and for their assistance to the Scottish crown, the Clan was granted the royal forest of Kintore. Harvey Keith commanded the Scots Cavalry at Bannockburn and was probably more instrumental in the annihilation of the English army than any other single person. He was again granted lands for his deeds, this time at the expense of the Clan Cumming (Comyn), whose estates at Buchan were acquired by the Keith Clan.

His great grandson, Sir William Keith, founded the tower of Dunottar Castle. Through marriage with an heiress of the Cheynes of Axkergill, the Keiths acquired lands in Caithrless, and began a never-ending succession of feuds with their new neighbors, the Gunns and others.

Important Dates for the Keith family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Keith research. Another 359 words (26 lines of text) covering the years 1438, 1464, 1475, 1540, 1588, 1581, 1553, 1623, 1585, 1635, 1610, 1670, 1714, 1718, 1699, 1758, 1694, 1664, 1712, 1638, 1716 and are included under the topic Early Keith History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Keith Spelling Variations

In medieval Scotland, names were more often spelled according to sound than any regular set of rules. An enormous number of spelling variations were the result. Over the years, the name Keith has been spelled Keith, Keath, Ceiteach (Gaelic) and others.

Early Notables of the Keith family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the Clan at this time was William Keith (d. 1475), 1st Earl Marischal of Scotland; Agnes Keith, Countess of Moray (c.1540-1588), a Scottish noblewoman; William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal (d. 1581), a Scottish nobleman and politician; George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal (c.1553-1623), a Scottish nobleman; William Keith, 6th Earl Marischal (c.1585-1635), a Scottish lord, Earl Marischal and naval official; William...
Another 61 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Keith Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Keith family to Ireland

Some of the Keith family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 59 words (4 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Keith migration to the United States

In such difficult times, Ireland, Australia, and North America looked like better homes for many Scots. The trips were expensive and grueling, but also rewarding, as the colonies were havens for those unwelcome in the old country. That legacy did not die easily, though, and many were forced to fight for their freedom in the American War of Independence. The Scottish legacy has resurface in more recent times, though, through Clan societies, highland games, and other organizations. Immigration and passenger lists have shown many early immigrants bearing the old Scottish name of Keith:

Keith Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • James Keith, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1662 [1]
  • Dorothy Keith, who arrived in Maryland in 1674 [1]
  • James Keith, who settled in Barbados with his wife and daughter in 1678
  • Henry Keith, who settled in Virginia in 1679
  • George Keith, who settled in Philadelphia in 1682
Keith Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Margery Keith, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1702 [1]
  • Cornelius Keith, who landed in Virginia in 1709 [1]
  • Effie Keith, who arrived in New York in 1739 [1]
  • Alexander Keith, who landed in South Carolina in 1745 [1]
  • William Keith, who landed in Charleston, South Carolina in 1769 [1]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Keith Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Robert Keith, aged 20, who landed in Maryland in 1813 [1]
  • Rebecca Keith, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816 [1]
  • John Keith, who landed in New York in 1817 [1]
  • Charles Keith, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1850 [1]

Keith migration to Canada

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Keith Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Capt. Keith Daniel U.E. (b. 1761) born in Dublin, Ireland who settled in New Canaan, Brunswick Parish, Queens County, New Brunswick c. 1785 he served in the Queens Rangers as a Private then Sergeant, Queens Company Militia, married to Elizabeth Disbrown they had 14 children, he died in 1830 [2]
Keith Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Keith, who arrived in Canada in 1841
  • Mr. John Keith who was emigrating through Grosse Isle Quarantine Station, Quebec aboard the ship "Goliah" departing 21st May 1847 from Liverpool, England; the ship arrived on 18th July 1847 but he died on board [3]

Keith migration to Australia

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Keith Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Jane Keith, English convict from Kent, who was transported aboard the "Arab" on December 14, 1835, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [4]
  • George Keith, aged 28, a carpenter, who arrived in South Australia in 1853 aboard the ship "Marshall Bennett" [5]

Keith migration to New Zealand

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Keith Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Alexander Keith, aged 34, a shepherd, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Blenheim" in 1840
  • Mr Keith, who landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840 aboard the ship Blenheim
  • Mr. W. Keith, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Three Bells" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 13th July 1858 [6]
  • Mrs. Keith, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Three Bells" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 13th July 1858 [6]
  • Mrs. Keith, Scottish settler travelling from Greenock aboard the ship "Robert Henderson" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 9th February 1858 [6]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Keith (post 1700)

  • William Bradford "Bill" Keith (1939-2015), American five-string banjoist
  • William R. Keith (b. 1929), American Democrat politician, Member of Michigan State House of Representatives, 1973-82, 1993-94 (33rd District 1973-82, 17th District 1993-94) [7]
  • Willard W. Keith, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from California, 1948, 1952 (alternate), 1956 (alternate) [7]
  • Walter P. Keith, American politician, Representative from Ohio 14th District, 2000 [7]
  • W. W. Keith (1911-1992), American politician, Mayor of Winfield, Kansas, 1950, 1952, 1954 [7]
  • Tom Keith, American politician, Representative from Oklahoma 5th District, 1994 [7]
  • W. M. Keith, American politician, U.S. Consular Agent in Smiths Falls, 1884 [7]
  • Thomas Keith, American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Madison County, 1844 [7]
  • Roland M. Keith, American Republican politician, Member of Massachusetts State House of Representatives Eighth Plymouth District, 1923-24 [7]
  • Stephen Keith, American politician, Member of Kentucky State House of Representatives, 1986-91 [7]
  • ... (Another 71 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Historic Events for the Keith family

Air New Zealand Flight 901
  • Mr. John Edgar Keith (1940-1979), New Zealander passenger, from Whangarei, North Island, New Zealand aboard the Air New Zealand Flight 901 for an Antarctic sightseeing flight when it flew into Mount Erebus; he died in the crash [8]
Empress of Ireland
  • Mr. Alfred Keith (1892-1914), Canadian Second Class Passenger from Toronto, Ontario, Canada who survived the sinking on the Empress of Ireland [9]
HMAS Sydney II
HMS Cornwall
  • Kenneth Ian Blair Keith (d. 1942), British Able Seaman aboard the HMS Cornwall when she was struck by air bombers and sunk; he died in the sinking [11]
HMS Hood
  • Mr. Arthur W Keith (b. 1922), English Marine serving for the Royal Marine from Wimborne, Dorset, England, who sailed into battle and died in the sinking [12]

You May Also Like


  1. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  2. ^ Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  3. ^ Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 81)
  4. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2015, January 8) Arab voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1835 with 132 passengers. Retrieved from
  5. ^ South Australian Register Friday 29 April 1853. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Marshall Bennett 1853. Retrieved
  6. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  7. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, August 4) . Retrieved from
  8. ^ Mount Erebus, Memorial, Roll of Remembrance (Retrieved 2018, February 21st). Retrieved from
  9. ^ Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 17) . Retrieved from
  10. ^ HMAS Sydney II, Finding Sydney Foundation - Roll of Honour. (Retrieved 2014, April 24) . Retrieved from
  11. ^ Force Z Survivors Crew List HMS Cornwall (Retrieved 2018, February 13th) - Retrieved from
  12. ^ H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: Crew Information - H.M.S. Hood Rolls of Honour, Men Lost in the Sinking of H.M.S. Hood, 24th May 1941. (Retrieved 2016, July 15) . Retrieved from
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