Kenn History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The illustrious surname Kenn finds its origin in the rocky, sea swept coastal area of southwestern England known as Cornwall. Although surnames were fairly widespread in medieval England, people were originally known only by a single name. The process by which hereditary surnames were adopted is extremely interesting. As populations grew, people began to assume an extra name to avoid confusion and to further identify themselves. Under the Feudal System of government, surnames evolved and they often reflected life on the manor and in the field. Lords and their tenants often became known by the name of the feudal territory they owned or lived on. Unlike most Celtic peoples, who favored patronymic names, the Cornish predominantly used local surnames. This was due to the heavy political and cultural influence of the English upon the Cornish People at the time that surnames first came into use. Local surnames were derived from where a person lived, held land, or was born. While many Cornish surnames of this sort appear to be topographic surnames, which were given to people who resided near physical features such as hills, streams, churches, or types of trees, many are actually habitation surnames derived from lost or unrecorded place names. The name Kenn is a local type of surname and the Kenn family lived in Devon or Somerset at the village of Kenn. Alternatively the name could have been a nickname as in "le ken" for one who keeps dogs derived from the Old French "chien."

Early Origins of the Kenn family

The surname Kenn was first found in Kenn in either Devon or Somerset. The latter, was "the place that was for many generations the property of the Ken family, of whose manorial residence, now modernised, the moat is still discernible. Thomas Ken, their descendant, was created Bishop of Bath and Wells by Charles II., and was one of the seven prelates sent to the Tower by James II." [1]

The first record of the family was Robert le Chein (Chen) who was listed in the Pipe Rolls of 1183 in Cornwall. Willelmus Chen, Canis was listed in the Liber Feodorum in Essex in 1212 and 1219. Henry le Kenne was listed in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex in 1337. [2]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 lists: Walter le Ken in Oxfordshire; Eborard le Ken in Cambridgeshire; and Thomas le Chene in Norfolk. Kirby's Quest lists both John de Ken and Walter de Ken in Somerset during the first year's reign of Edward I. [3] [4]

Early History of the Kenn family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kenn research. Another 180 words (13 lines of text) covering the years 1086, 1170, 1086, 1176, 1332, 1685, 1753, 1637 and 1711 are included under the topic Early Kenn History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Kenn Spelling Variations

Cornish surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era. The name has been spelled Kenn, Ken, Kenne and others.

Early Notables of the Kenn family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Kenn Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Kenn migration to the United States +

An examination into the immigration and passenger lists has discovered a number of people bearing the name Kenn:

Kenn Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Mathew Kenn, who sailed to Barbados in 1679
Kenn Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Peter Kenn to Charles Town, South Carolina in 1764
Kenn Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • William M Kenn, who landed in Mississippi in 1850 [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Kenn (post 1700) +

  • Michael Lee Kenn (b. 1956), former American football player
  • Kenn Nesbitt, American children's poet, named Children's Poet Laureate (2013) by the Poetry Foundation
  • Kenn S. George, American Republican politician, Candidate for Texas State House of Representatives 108th District; Candidate in primary for Texas land commissioner, 2002 [6]

  1. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  3. ^ Dickinson, F.H., Kirby's Quest for Somerset of 16th of Edward the 3rd London: Harrison and Sons, Printers in Ordinary to Her Majesty, St, Martin's Lane, 1889. Print.
  4. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 16) . Retrieved from on Facebook
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