English habitational name from Keele in Staffordshire, named from Old English cy
‘cows’ + hyll
‘hill’, or from East and West Keal in Lincolnshire, which are named from Old Norse kjolr
Finally, Keel is a variant of Keeler
, an occupational name for a boatman or boatbuilder, from the Middle English kele
, ship, barge, from the Middle Dutch kiel
The surname is first recorded in the late 13th Century (see below). The Oxford University Register for 1579 lists one Sebastian Keele of Buckinghamshire, and George Keel was a convicted Monmouth rebel, who was transported from Taunton to the Barbadoes in 1685. A Coat of Arms was granted to a Keel family in London, which is divided quarterly, crenellee silver and black, in the first quarter a crescent of the second. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Kele, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Lincolnshire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.