Select Kemp Surname Genealogy

Here are some Kemp stories and accounts over the years:

Wye Kempe Origins

Ralph Kempe, also known as Radulphus de Campis, was born in Kent sometime in the 1270’s.  He was the first to hold the manor of Olantigh and also the first of the Wye Kempes. 

Hitchin-Kempe in his Kemp history concluded that Ralph Kempe was not, as some had thought, the son of John Kempe, a Flemish weaver who had settled in England under royal protection - because this John Kempe had appeared much later in 1313. 

Ralph Kempe might have been related to an earlier Kempe recorded in Kent in a legal document in Canterbury.  Robert le Kempe in 1227 was “granted the tenancy of five acres of land at Holborough at a yearly rent of 12 pence.”  This Kempe was thought to have had Norfolk connections.  The Kempe name had been long established there.

The Kempes of Spains Hall in Essex

There has been a house on the site of Spains Hall for nearly ten centuries. The hall was named after Hervey de Ispania who held the Manor at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086.  The estate passed to the Kempe family on the marriage of Margery de Ispania to Nicholas Kempe in the early 1400’s.  The façade of the present Elizabethan house was built in 1585. 

William Kempe who died there in 1628 was the subject of the following story that went the rounds in the village: 

“It appears that the squire, returning from a banquet, used foul language to his wife, whose gentle nature was so hurt that her tears were with difficulty stopped.  When the squire returned to his sober senses he vowed that for seven years he would speak no word to anyone. 

This vow he most rigorously kept, filling up his days with manual labor by way of further penance.  His toil resulted in the formation of seven pools or fishponds, each one larger than the last, stretching away from the hall to the woods near the town.  His self-inflicted punishment was just completed - they said that it was the very day that he could once more speak - when he died.” 

The story, though told with variations, was founded on fact.  The tablet to the memory of William and his wife in the Kempe Chapel of Finchingfield church read as follows: 

“Here lyeth William Kempe esquire, pious, just, hospitable, master of himself so much that what others scarce do by force and penalties he did by a voluntary constancy hold his peace seven years; who was interred June the 10th 1628, aged 73."

Kemps in Rossshire and Nova Scotia

The Kemps in Rossshire in Scotland may have had Viking roots.  Another theory is that some of these Kemps could have come from northern England to work at the ironworks at Gairloch. 

John Kemp lived in Gairloch in the late 18th century.  He was married three times and had many children.  Some of them stayed in Scotland.  Most emigrated to Nova Scotia, arriving there in and around 1820.  Many of them changed their names from Kemp to Kempt. 

William Kemp from Kemp's second marriage settled in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.  Murdoch Kempt went first to Pictou in Nova Scotia and then moved onto Boularderie and settled in what is now known as Kempt's Head.  A number of Kempts followed the Rev. Norman McLeod in the 1840's in leaving Nova Scotia to found a new colony in New Zealand.

Ebenezer Kemp of Groton, Mass and Gorham, Maine

Ebenezer Kemp Senior was a bayonet-man in Captain James Prescott's company of Groton soldiers in 1758 during the French and Indian Wars.  He died in 1780 while the Revolutionary War was still raging.  His son Ebenezer Junior, born in Groton in 1749, was a member of the Groton company of minutemen who marched to Concord and Lexington with Captain Henry Farwell's company in 1775. 

"He took part in the Battle of Bunker Hill where he was severely injured.  The tradition of the family is that he had his hip dislocated when he was taken prisoner by the British; but immediately afterward he managed to escape, hobbling off, it was said, with the aid of General Warren's gun." 

After the war, he purchased land in Otisfield, Maine where he resided for a time.  Then about 1785 he moved to Gorham and cleared the farm where his descendants were to live for many generations.

Jan Kemp and his Bible

Jan Kemp from the Eastern Transvaal was a commando leader against the British during the Boer War.  His family lost their Bible at that time. 

"The Bible, printed in 1748 in Gorinchern in Holland in an old Dutch dialect, was removed from the Kemp homestead at Elandsfontein near Bethlehem by a British soldier in 1900 during the second Anglo-Boer War.  Kemp wanted the Bible back as it was the custom to pass the Bible on from generation to generation.  The first inscription had been made in 1815 and the last in 1897." 

It was finally returned to the family in 2004.

Anthony Kemp in Australia

Anthony Kemp, born in London, was an important figure man in the early history of both New South Wales and Tasmania. 

Kemp was one of the key participants in the Rum Rebellion of 1808 that removed William Bligh, the appointed governor of the NSW colony.  He was at that time "well-known for turbulence and malevolence and for a tongue which spares none in its slanders."  Despite or perhaps because of his various run-ins with the authorities in Sydney, he was in 1816 permitted to settle in Tasmania. 

The town which developed in Tasmania in the area where Kemp had his largest land holdings – his Mount Vernon estate north of Hobart - was renamed Kempton in 1840.  It was here that he established and developed Tasmania’s infant wool industry, bred horses and cattle, and introduced a hardy North American variety of corn. 

Kemp has sometimes been referred to as the "father of Tasmania."  This is said to have been an allusion to the number of his children (seven sons and eleven daughters) and to the number of his grandchildren who married into other prominent families in Tasmania.  Kemp himself lived onto 1868, dying at the ripe old age of ninety five.

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