Kelsey References:

This passage was found in a geneology report I was given. I suppose it all came from A Genealogy of the Descendants of William Kelsey- Volume I -sjt.


Just how or where the name of Kelsey originated is really a matter of conjecture, and to arrive at anything definite concerning the origin would be problematical.

Some claim that the Norman Conquest was responsible for its importation into England from France, to which country it may have been carried by earlier invasions from the North which would support a theory that it was originally Scandinavian.

A very flowery tradition has been handed down. appearing in several publications. which explains that certain Norman knights were given land holdings in Scotland to compensate for military duty. The story goes on: "One of the knights, said to have come from France, received a tract of land on the Tweed River in what is now Rosburghshire, opposite the mouth of the Toviot, and a castle was built there at a place known to the Saxon lowlanders as Kalk-nough, vix., the chalkpit or chalk cliff.

"In the Norman-French used by these military adventurers, this became Kelson or Kelso, and the family was for some four hundred and fifty years known as Kelso. They were near neighbors and often intermarried with the Douglases.

"They were so closely allied, that on the downfall of the Douglases about 1545, the De Kelsos also (attained?) and their estate was seized.

"It appears that they not very long after settled in Lincolnshire, England, where they had means to buy a tract of land, probably not large. In the Lincolnshire English, the name became Kelsey."

All of which sounds quite possible and makes very interesting reading, but what and where is the authority? Possibly this story is fostered by the fact that the name of Kelso has been changed to Kelsey, but this was done quite recently and on this side of the Atlantic. A man named Kelso of Scotch parentage came from Ireland to Boston about 1720 and later settled in the state of New Hampshire, where the name, in some instances, has been changed to Kelsey. It is by coming in contact with this family, that the work on this genealogy has been made much more difficult.

A little second-thought will make it apparent that if this Norman knight's descendants made Scotland their habitat for four hundred and fifty years before going to England to settle in Lincolnshire, as the story describes, this migration could not have taken place before the first half of the sixteenth century. Of course, this checks very closely with the date of the Douglas downfall, which was about 1535 under James V, the boy King, whose mother had rashly married the Earl of Angus, head of the Douglas household; but on the other hand, were they, the Kelsos, so closely connected with the Douglas family as the story would have one believe? From a history of the Douglas family taken from a reliable encyclopedia, we read the following:

"Douglas, the name of one of the most ancient and powerful noble families of Scotland, descendants, according to one tradition, of a Fleming, Theobold, to whom Arnold, abbot of Kelso, made a grant of lands on the Douglas or Blackwater, in Lanarkshire, about the middle of the twelfth century."

However, this article goes on to state, that the best historians do not give credence to this legend, and that it is impossible to trace authentic history of the name back of the thirteenth century.

As further evidence that there is not much foundation to the Scotch legend, we will quote from the Principal Families of Ayrshire, by George Robertson (1828), under the heading of Kelso of Kelsoland. He states:

"This family, one of the most ancient in Scotland, and one of the few still represented by a lineal descendant in the male line, was long a family of distinction in Cunninghame, and appears to have had, in very early times considerable possessions in Lanark and the North of Ayrshire, long prior to the date of any charters that have been preserved. The origin of this family, though unquestionably of great antiquity, seems not to be very precisely ascertained. The original name was Calso or Chalchou, which is decidedly Celtic derivation; and it seems now certain, although attempts of late years have been made to claim for the family a Norman origin, that they were Mormaers, of that large tract of country south of the Clyde, corresponding to Cowal and Levenax before the Conquest of England. If a "birth brieve," passed under the great seal in the reign of James VI, to Sir James Boyd, dated April 26, 1600, can be relied upon, the family had ranked as "Barones Majores" of Kelsoland 550 years previously, thus carrying back their antiquity till the middle of the Eleventh Century."

Thus one may see that even the Kelsos were not of Norman origin, as has been believed by some.

Against all this Scotch tradition, we quote from a local paper published in Beckingham, County Kent, England, in an article taken from Beckingham, Past and Present. This goes on to state that Kelsey Manor situated there "was built by Richard Henry Alexander Bennet, Esq. The estate, beautifully wooded and well laid out, is situated half-a-mile south of the Church, and in the reign of Henry III was owned by a family of the same name (Kelsey), from whom in Richard III's time it came into the possession of a family of the name of Brograve or Boroughgrave (descendants of Sir Roger Brograve, of Warwickshire)."

If this family of de Kelsey, as some claim the name was spelled, sold their holdings in Beckingham in County Kent, we assume that they moved away, but probably not far distant. About this same time, we discover record of a William Kelsey in Ripley, County Surrey, but a few miles to the west of Beckingham. This William Kelsey was born about 1294 under the reign of Edward III to Maud, the daughter and heiress of Sir Richard Willoughby. Their grandson, Thomas Kelsey, also of Ripley, left an only daughter, Lucia, who was married in 1390 to Sir Nicholas Carew of Beddington, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal.

The fact that the name appears in the Domesday Book should be sufficient proof to blast this Scotch theory. This famous census, as any encyclopedia will tell us, was compiled by commissioners appointed by William the Conqueror about 1085, and the result of their labors -two vellum volumes -are still preserved in the British Museum. This is evidence that the family was in the possession of estates, manors and other forms of properties at that time. The Hundred Rolls (Rotuli Hundredorum), an historic compilation of similar character, was made during the reign of Edward I in 1273. In this, the name of Kelsey also appears.

Now, if the name was well established in Counties Kent and Surrey in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, is it not far more reasonable to believe that the families of lincolnshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, near where our ancestor was born, and which are but about fifty or so miles from Beckingham and Ripley, were the descendants; rather than to suppose that a family by another name and seated in another part of the island, would migrate to Lincolnshire and then change the name to Kelsey?

In reading that Thomas Kelsey of Ripley left an only daughter and heiress, which would seem to indicate that she was an only child, has led some to jump at the conclusion, that there could not have been any descendants by the Kelsey name; but there is nothing in this statement to disprove that Thomas might have had brothers to carry the name down. It would seem that Lucia was merely mentioned to show the connection with the Royal household.

Geographically, the name has been well broadcasted. There is a North Kelsey and a South Kelsey in Lincolnshire and a promontory of land on the north coast of Cornwall called Kelsey Head. This side of the Atlantic we find post offices at the following places: Kelsey, N.Y., in the valley of the Delaware River; Kelsey, Ohio, in Belmont County, fifty miles to the east of Zanesville; Kelsey, Minn. , on the White Face River in St. louis County; Kelsey, Alberta, in Camrose County and not far from Edmonton, Kelsey Bay in British Columbia; Kelsey and Kelseyville in California, the former in Eldorado County and the latter in lake County near Kelsey Falls; and Kelsey City, Fla., on the Atlantic Coast, near Palm Beach. In addition to these, the Official Railroad Guide lists stations in Ill., Mich., Mo., and Okla.- Besides, there are two Kelsey Points on the shore of Connecticut -one between Clinton and Westbrook and the other between Westbrook and Saybrook.

The spelling of the name as given in the title of this volume is almost universally used by all of the families in the United States and Canada. There are a few exceptions. A few drop the 'e' in the last syllable and change the 's' to 'c', as Kelcy, and others substitute an 'a' for the 'e', as Kelsay.

This is the history of our name. Let us so live, that all those having any connection with it will have no cause to be ashamed of us.

** Information on the History of the Kelsey Name was obtained from a book entitled, A Genealogy of the Descendants of William Kelsey- Volume I. **