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About the study

I am undertaking a One-Name Study of the six names Kemball, Kimball, Kemble, Kimble, Kimbell and Kembell worldwide and am very keen to hear from anyone with any of these names. Where possible I will try to provide information and in a number of instances I can probably assist people in their research on the basis of information I have already collected. The majority of the Kemballs alive in the 19th and 20th century have been assembled into extensive pedigrees. Similar information has been collected on the other variants, but to a lesser extent.

I started work on my family history over twenty five years ago, concentrating mainly on my father's side of the family. I soon found out that my great great grandfather was a James Kemball who, according to various census records, was born in Haverhill, Suffolk around 1796. However despite a great deal of research I was unable to locate the birth or christening records of my great great grandfather. I therefore started my research into the Kemball One-Name Study. Although over 25 years of research has involved the collection of over 20,000 records of the Kemball name (and its variants) some 25 years late I have still to locate James Kemball's birth or christening.

Variant names

There are six main variants of the Kemball surname. The Kemball variants (Kimble, Kemble, Kimbell and Kembell) can be found to intermingle with the Kemball family, but each of these could be a distinct name in their own right. The Kimball name derives from two Kemballs who sailed to America in 1634 on the ship 'Elizabeth'. There are now tens of thousands of Kimballs in America.

Other variants found include Kimbel, Kembel, Kembal and even Simbel, but these are all likely to be transcription errors.

Name origin

The family name originates from Hitcham, Suffolk, England from around the 14th Century.

Historical occurrences of the name

Historically Kemballs have mainly been farmers, although some of the more affluent Kemballs were high-ranking officers in the Indian Army. Henry Kemball and Richard and their respective families were passengers of the ship Elizabeth, which sailed from Ipswich, Suffolk, mid-April 1634, bound for New England and arrived safe at Massachusetts Bay. There have been several notable people who have carried the name Kemball (or one of its variants):
  • Surgeon General Vero Clarke Kemball - Indian Army
  • Sir Arnold Burrowes Kemball - Indian Army
  • Captain Robert Kemball - Captain of the sailing ship 'Thermopylae' which raced (and beat) the 'Cutty Sark' to Australia during the wool trade
  • Heber Chase Kimball - the 'first counsellor' to Brigham Young, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Roger Kemble and Sarah Ward - the founders of the Kemble acting dynasty of the 18th and 19th centuries
  • Frances 'Fanny' Kemble - Notable actress of the 18th Century who wrote extensively about the slave trade in America

Name frequency

There are currently less than one hundred Kemballs alive in the UK, half of which are linked to my family. The frequency of the Kemball name (and its variants) from the 1901 and 1881 UK censuses are as follows:
Surname 1901 1891 1881 1871 1861 1851
Kemball 33 68 96 47 45 62
Kimball 24 63 13 65 44 38
Kemble 551 533 506 328 354 386
Kimble 432 344 388 166 225 164
Kimbell 179 187 157 114 167 138
Kembell 8 8 23 10 4 10


The frequency of these names in the UK can be established from a 2002 database from the Office of National Statistics. This shows the current UK population and UK ranking to be as follows:

Name Number Ranking
Kemble 903 = 7,178
Kimble 571 =10,225
Kimbell 181 =22,744
Kemball 110 =31,200
Kimball 35 =63,515


The Kembell name no longer appears in the UK, which suggests that it was either a variant of Kimbell or else the name has since died out.

Distribution of the name

The general distribution of the Kemball surname and its variants are as follows:
  • Kemball - mainly in Suffolk, London and Kent
  • Kimball - mainly in America
  • Kimble -
  • Kemble -
  • Kimbell -


I have collected over 20,000 records of the Kemball name and its variants. This includes all the births, marriages and deaths from 1837 to 2002 a large number of entries from the IGI and various Vital Record Index entries. The majority of these can be accessed from the Guild's Archives.

The following records are held on the Guild's Archive:

  • Civil births in England and Wales, 1837 to 2002
  • Civil marriages in England and Wales, 1837 to 2002
  • Civil deaths in England and Wales, 1837 to 2002
  • Civil probate in England and Wales, 1858 to 1963

I hold some information on the Kimballs in America, but this is generally the area I need to do more research. However a significant amount of research on the Kimball families was carried out in the 18th Century by Leonard A Morrison and Stephen P Sharples. They published a two volume book (1,278 pages) entitled History of the Kimball Family in America from 1634 to 1897, and of it ancestors the Kemballs or Kemboldes of England.