Kelsey Family Crest, Coat of Arms and Name History


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The English surname Kelsey is topographical having originated from the bronze age Celtic “Ceol’s Island” an area which in ancient times was located in Lincolnshire. The name translates to mean “island of the ships”. Vast stretches of Lincolnshire would flood in springtime, leaving a massive expanse of open water dotted with hills which in the time of flood would become isolated islands. This uncontrolled flooding existed from before the bronze age up to the latter half of the 19th century.

The use of surnames did not come into vogue in England until after the Norman invasion. Most residents in the small settlements and villages which existed during earlier eras across most of the British Isles, found little need for surnames as everyone within these communities knew each other and a given name would usually suffice. However, with the passage of time, population growth and expansions of communities as villages gave way to towns and cities, it became necessary to add a qualifier to a people’s names to distinguish them, one from another. Therefore one person may have been identified by their given name plus their occupation while another may have been identified by their given name and one of their parent’s names. The introduction of surnames by the Norman aristocracy after the invasion seemed to be the next logical step in this evolution. There was a boundless supply from which surnames could be formed, in addition to the use of patriarchal/matriarchal names or reference to the individuals occupation, there were things such as defining physical traits, a familiar geographical location or a topographical landmark found near the individuals home or birthplace, the name of the village in which the person lived, and so much more. Soon, surnames would come not just to represent an individual but whole families.

There often exists variations in spelling of many surnames, as with many given names which date back to the early centuries. The variation in spelling of both given and surnames during this time period can be attributed to a lack of continuity regarding guidelines for spelling which was compounded by the diversity of languages in use in European countries at this time. The variations in the spelling of the surname Kelsey include but not limited to; Kelsy; Kellsy; Kelsall; Kilshall; Kelsell; Kelsow; and Kellsey.

The earliest record of any variation of this surname is that of Brice de Keleseye which appears in the Lincolnshire tax rolls from 1272. These rolls, were a series of census and tax records kept by the English Treasury by order of King Edward I, with the oldest dating back 700 years to the 12th century. They hold the distinction of being the oldest consecutive set of records detailing English governance in the United Kingdom.

Some of the first recorded immigrants to America bearing the surname or any variation of the spelling was William Kelsey who arrived in 1632 and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Francis Kelsey landed and settled in Maryland in 1663.

There were also many immigrants to the British Commonwealth countries of Canada and Australia bearing the surname Kelsey. James Kelsey landed in 1785 and settled in Ontario, Canada. Thomas Kelsey landed in 1840 and settled in Adelaide, Australia and William Kelsey arrived and settled in Wellington, New Zealand in 1857.

Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Kelsey are found in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. By state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Jack live in Utah, Connecticut, Vermont, New York, and Michigan.

Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Kelsey are found in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. State by state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Kelsey live in Utah, Connecticutt, New York, Vermont, and South Dakota.

Benjamin Scovill Kelsey was born in America and was a test pilot and aeronautical engineer. His innovating and pioneering work in fighter aircraft design helped bring success to the United States Air Force during World War II. Kelsey had a hand I aiding with the development of the Allison V-1710, the P-39 Airacobra, the P-38 Lightning, and the P-51 Mustang.

During his career, Kelsey received the following awards for his service; Distinguished Service

Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, Air Medal, French Croix de Guerre, Belgian Croix de Guerre, and Octave Chanute Award.

Henry Kelsey was a British explorer who was one of the primary people responsible for the Hudson Bay Company. As an explorer, he was the first European to visit what is know now as the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Hudson Bay Company founded in 1670 recently celebrated its 346th anniversary.

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Blazons & Genealogy Notes

1) (Ripley, co. Surrey; William Kelsey, of Ripley, m. temp. Edward III. Maud, dau. and heir of Sir Richard Willoughby. His grandson, Thomas Ripley, of Ripley, left an only dau. and heiress, Lucia who m. cir. 1390, Sir Nicholas Carew, of Beddington, Keeper of the Privy Seal). Gu. a cross moline ar. surmounted of a bend az. charged with three plain crosses couped of the second.
2) (Chelmsford and Thorp, co. Essex; granted 24 June, 1634). Sa. on a pale betw. two palets or, three escutcheons gu. Crest—Two cubit arms erect, vested sa. cuffed or, holding in the hands ppr. an escutcheon gold.

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