Culpepper is an English surname derived from the medieval English compound word “cull” which translates to pick and “peper” which translates to pepper. The medieval “cull” is thought to have been an Anglicized version of the old French word “coillir” derived from the Latin “collogere”, both of which translate “to collect” and were introduced into the English lexicon after the Norman invasion of 1066. In this context, the name would have been occupational as it would have been used in reference to an individual who was a spice merchant or an herbalist.
Surnames, as can be noted from the information above, often were adapted from variety of sources, from a person's occupation or topographical landmark found near the individual's home or birthplace, or possibly from the name of the village in which the person lived or was born. Surnames were sometimes patriarchal or matriarchal, created by combining the person's given name plus the name of their father or mother. In some instances surnames were also created from defining physical traits; such as a person's hair color, eye color, height, among other things.
While the use of surnames was a common practice in medieval France among the aristocracy, it was not until after the mid-sixteenth century that it became commonplace in the British Isles and across the remainder of Europe. The small size of the settlements and villages which existed during the earlier periods across most of Europe often meant there was no need for surnames as everyone within these communities knew each other and a given name would usually suffice. However, as communities grew and people began to migrate on a larger scale, the Norman aristocracy's penchant for using surnames was found to serve several practical purposes; it allowed people the ability to distinguish themselves, one from another, and it gave the government a reliable way to track people for tax, census, and immigration purposes.
The task of record keeping was primarily under the jurisdiction of the Church, local priories, and the government. This was due in large part to the fact that literacy was a skill usually found only among the nobles, the clergy, and government officials and scribes. Even so, there often existed multiple variations of names which may be attributed to a number of factors; the origins of the surname, the lack of guidelines which existed for spelling, and the fact that many scribes who were charged with record keeping spelled phonetically, among other things. One of the earliest records of anyone bearing the surname or any variation of its spelling is that of Geoffrey Colepepper found in Kent tax rolls dated 1290. Some other early variations of the name include; Culpepper; Culpeper; Colepepper; Colpepper; Colpeper; and Coleper among others.
With the discovery of America and the addition to the British Commonwealth of countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, it was not long before people began to immigrate to these outlying areas. The use of surnames made tracking of immigrants easier. Some of the first recorded immigrants to America bearing the surname was William Culpepper who landed and settled in New England in 1634. Elizabeth Culpepper landed and settled in Maryland in 1663. Brothers, John, Robert, and Dennis Culpepper landed and settled in Virginia in 1664.
Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Culpepper are found in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland. By state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Culpepper live in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
There are many notable people who bear the surname such as John Culpepper who was titled, Sir John Culpepper of Oxon Hoath, Knight. Culpepper was a knight in service to King Henry V of England.
Thomas Culpepper was related to two of King Henry VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Culpepper was also a close friend to Henry as well.
British born Martyn Culpepper was and academic administrator. Culpepper held the position of Head of New College, Oxford and was also vice-Chancellor of Oxford University.
American born Allen Ross Culpepper was a Captain in the United States Army who served during the Vietnam War. Captain Culpepper was posthumously awarded the Distinguish Service Cross for valorous service.