Select Keller Surname Genealogy

Keller is a German surname, found primarily in Switzerland and southern Germany, meaning ďcellarĒ or ďbasement.Ē  It is an occupational name for the steward who oversaw the stores and accounts in a large household.

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Select Keller Ancestry

The Keller name seems to have originated in Switzerland.  The story goes that many Swiss came down from the mountains at the time of the Black Death in the 14th century and made their home in the Rhineland part of Bavaria, with the Kellers bringing their name with them.  Baron Burkhart Keller was a legendary figure who lived at Castle Hohenbaden near Baden Baden in Germany sometime in the 15th century. 

Today the Keller name numbers some 40,000 in Switzerland and is mainly found in the western part of the country. There are a further 70,000 in Germany, again in the west in Baden Wurttemburg and Rheinland Pfalz.

.  Keller may also be an Irish name, derived from the Gaelic
O'Ceileachair sept found in Cork and Kerry.  The anglicized version was more commonly Kelleher, but Cornelius Keller, a Cork city alderman in the 1850ís, was said to have come from a junior branch of this family.  

Matthew Keller left Cork for Texas and the American West in the 1830ís; while George Keller departed Cork for New York and Hartford, Connecticut in 1852.  Meanwhile some of the descendants of Robert Killough who had left Ulster for Pennsylvania in the 1730ís adopted the Keller spelling after they had moved to Maine later in the 1700ís. 

The Keller arrivals in America may be described as having come in two waves.

The first, the result of either escaping religious persecution or the military draft, came in the 18th century and they headed for Pennsylvania.  The second, coming in the 19th century, was more for economic opportunity and they spread across the country.

18th Century Arrivals
.  Kellers came from small towns and villages in the Rhine Palatine region such as Lettweiler, Weierbach, Zweibrucken and Kippenheim, and also from Switzerland.  These Kellers have been the subject of a number of books. 

The earliest was probably the History of the Keller Family written by the Rev. Eli Keller in 1905.  Joseph Keller was the forebear of this family.  He arrived from the Rhine Palatine in 1737 and made his home in Plainfield township in Northampton county, then on the western frontier.  In 1757 this Keller family was raided by Indians, with the loss of their eldest child and the abduction of other members of the family. 

More recent books have been The Genealogy of the Keller Family by Linda Schillinger in 2006 and The Keller Family by Darel Keller in 2008.  The former book traced the family of Swiss-born Martin Keller who settled in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania in the 1730ís; the latter that of Anthony Keller from Lettweiler in the Rhine Palatine who arrived in 1740 and settled first in Pennsylvania and later in North Carolina.

Conrad Keller came to Lancaster county from Switzerland in 1735.  His line led to David Keller who migrated south to Alabama in the 1820ís.  Davidís
son Arthur built the family homestead Ivy Green in Tuscumbia, Alabama after the Civil War.  It was there in 1880 that the famous Helen Keller, now honored across the land, was born.

Other early arrivals were:
  • Jacob Keller from the Basel canton in Switzerland who came in the late 1720ís and also settled in Lancaster county.  He was a member of the German Baptist church and died there in 1794 at the good age of 88.
  • and Heinrich Keller from Weierbach in Baden who came in 1738 and made his home in Bedminster township, Bucks county.  He helped found Kellersí Church there in 1746.  All three of his sons fought in the Revolutionary War.
Kellers also came to the Shenandoah valley in Virginia:
  • George Keller moved to the Germanic settlement there from Lancaster county in 1750.  His original homestead stood until 1864 when it was burnt down during the Civil War.  The house that still stands was built by Georgeís son Henry in the early 1800ís and there is also there today a Keller mill and a Keller store.  Kellers have remained in the area. 
  • while Abraham Keller was first recorded in Shenandoah county in 1758.  He was a carpenter and builder by trade.  His son Isaac was killed chasing Indians in 1786.  His other three sons migrated to Kentucky and Indiana.
Jean Pierre Keller was among a group of Alsatian colonists from France who arrived in Louisiana in 1759.  He drowned in the Mississippi river, apparently on his way to New Orleans, in 1789.  However, his family continued and has remained an influential family in Louisiana to this day.  Charles and Rosa Keller founded the Keller Family Foundation in New Orleans in 1949.

19th Century Arrivals.
The following is a sampling of the Kellers who arrived in the 19th century:
  • John Keller came to Ohio from Germany in the 1840ís.   His son John Henry headed west and bought a large cattle ranch on the outskirts of Concord, California in 1871.  The Kellers became civic leaders in the Concord community.
  • Frank Keller arrived in Naperville, Illinois from Bavaria around the year 1850.  The Kellers have been farming there or in neighboring Oswego since that time.
  • while William Keller came to Indianapolis from Darmstadt in the 1880ís.  He found work there with the Indianapolis Brewing Company
Keller could also be Jewish in America.  Jacob Keller was a rabbi from Hanover who came to Lexington, Missouri in 1826.  William and Johanna Keller were Jews from Hungary who reached Eau Claire in Wisconsin in 1883.

Canada.  A large Keller contingent came over to Canada from upstate New York at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.  Frederick Keller, an Empire Loyalist, had served with the Kingís Rangers during the war and moved with his family to Fredericksburg township in Lennox Addington county, Ontario.  He was married four times and was the father of 24 children, all but one of them born in Canada.  Frederick was the descendant of Kellers from the Rhine Palatine who had come to a camp along the Hudson river around the year 1700. 

Another Keller family had departed the Rhine Palatine in 1810 for a German settlement in the Ukraine, then part of the Russian empire, and then, approximately a hundred years later, to another German community in Saskatchewan.  It was curious that their home-town in Germany was called Rastatt, their home in Ukraine Rastadt, and their home in Saskatchewan Rastadt. 

Conrad Keller was Swiss and came to Saskatchewan In 1912, married and made his home in Rockglen.  John Keller, Jewish from Poland, was also in Saskatchewan by 1912.

Select Keller Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Keller Names

Louis Keller was a 19th century American social arbiter of high society and the first publisher of the Social Register. 
Helen Keller
from Alabama, despite being deaf and blind, overcame her afflictions to blossom as a writer, political activist and lecturer.
George Keller
 was the Chairman of Socal who oversaw its merger with Gulf Oil to form Chevron in 1984.  His son Bill Keller has been the Executive Editor of the New York Times

Select Kellers Today
  • 38,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania) 
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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