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The Keene and Phillips Family
Jocelyn Keene

Keene & Kershner Families
Morgan & Mannington Families
Phillips, Shuter, Gould and Friend Families
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Astronomical Images

Introduction to the Keene and Phillips Family History
My Pennsylvania German grandmother was the first person that I know of in my family to catch the genealogy bug. She started the investigation of the Kershner and Keene families more than a half-century ago. She and my grandfather never had spare money and did not live in their hometown where they could easily access the old records. She did all of her work by mail since she and my grandfather never even owned an automobile. When I look back at her painstaking and painfully slow research, I am truly grateful to her - and I am also grateful that I live in the age of computers, email, and airplanes. When I was young, I had the forethought to ask my British mother about her family history. With that slight encouragement, she started writing letters to her cousins asking about it, because she had grown up in India, far from the rest of her family and knew little about them. Finally, after my mother's death, my father caught the bug. He wrote further to my mother's cousins, obtained more material from them and then wrote many short articles incorporating family history as revealed in the notes and letters written to and by my mother and grandmother. So with love for and gratitude to these people, and acknowledging the tremendous head start that they have given me, I commence.

This is the history of the Keene and Phillips families. The Keene family originated in Pennsylvania with German and British ancestors and the Phillips family is from the London area with ancestors living there since the 19th century but coming from various regions of Europe before that. The family names of our grandparents are Keene, Kershner, Morgan, Mannington, Phillips, Shuter, Gould (Renovitch), and Friend.

The Kershners and most of the rest of our German branch immigrated to Pennsylvania from German speaking lands in the period of about 1730-1750. This was a time of great economic and religious upheaval in Germany. Some of these families may have come to obtain religious freedom but others undoubtedly came because of the economic devastation in their homelands. Some of the families associated with the Kershners are Fryberger, Hass and Geis. Once in Pennsylvania, these families obtained land from the Penn family and turned to farming. They were all (as far as I know) of the Reformed or Lutheran persuasion. They all lived in Berks County, mostly in the north-west quadrant.

The Keene (or Kühn as it was originally spelled) family came to America more recently, having emigrated from Toba, a tiny town in the principality of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen to Pennsylvania in 1852. The period of around 1848-52 was a time of renewed emigration from Germany as it coincided with the failure of a popular revolution there, the Märzrevolution. I don't know if the Keene family was involved at all in that revolution but in any case they chose that time to move to Reading, Pa., perhaps along with some of their compatriots. We know of at least one fellow townsman who came to Reading at about the same time. The Keenes became a mining and manufacturing family. We have very little information about one of our German family branches, the Snyders, who married into the Keene family. When we first pick up their trail in about 1840, they were a family of hatters, also living in Reading. Also associated with these families are the Rothenbergers and Katzenmoyers.

The Morgans were a mining and metal-working family, from the tiny hamlets of Treboeth and Tirdeunaw, just north of Swansea in Glamorgan. Life in Wales was difficult for the working class. Perhaps as a reaction to the English land and factory owners, the Welsh non-conformist chapels (i.e., not Church of England) became very strong institutions. In spite of the necessity for starting to work in factories or mines at an early age, several of the Morgan family managed to finish school and my grandfather and one of his brothers became Baptist ministers, inspired and urged on by the ministers of their chapel. Other names associated with the Morgans are Evans, Rees and Richard.

The Manningtons were a well-to-do family from East Sussex, having lived there since at least the 18th century. Though the men described themselves as "Gentlemen" they were not members of the peerage nor even extensive landowners. East Sussex was a hops growing area and many of the Manningtons operated large hops farms which were leased from larger manors. Some of them were staunch Baptists but others seemed to have not been particular in their religion. I have found marriage and baptism records and burials in both Church of England and non-conformist churches.

The Caffyns were another Sussex family, mostly tradespeople. They were interesting in that one of them, Matthew Caffyn (1628 - 1714), was one of the early Baptists. He was imprisioned five times for his heretical beliefs. Ironically, he eventually came to be regarded as a heretic by the Baptists and is now considered by the Unitarians to be one of the founders of their faiths. Nevertheless, several of his descendants have been Baptist ministers in Sussex and most of them remained staunch Baptists. The Caffyns are associated with Agates and Knights, other Baptist families.

Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and were officially readmitted only in 1655. The earliest Jews in England after the readmission were Spanish and Portuguese Jews (Sephardi). We don't know when many of our ancestors immigrated to England but all of there were there before the major Ashkenazi immigration from Eastern Europe began in 1881. We believe that most of our ancestors were Ashkenazi because they were mostly married in Ashkenazi synagogues, with only one exception - one of our Levy families.

We have evidence that the Phillips family was in London by 1787, when Moses Phillips was born. Moses and his father Nahum/Menachem (possibly Nathan in English) were both Hebrew scribes. Probably this job didn't pay very well, though it may have been prestigious, because I have not found anything to lead me to believe that the family was wealthy. Strangely, most of the rest of the men in the family were shoe or slipper makers and the scribe trade did not travel further through the generations. The shoe trade, however, was handed down through the family for several generations. The Phillips family married into several other families who had probably immigrated to London in the 18th century: the Jacobs, Harrises, Levys and Barnetts. We don't know what country these families originated in, though the Netherlands would be a good guess for Ashkenazi Jews at this early date.

Isaac Shuter, a furrier, immigrated to London from Lissa (now Leszno) in the Posen region of what is now Poland before 1850. He married Hannah Lesser whose father, Isaac, a jeweler, also from Lissa, immigrated before 1825. Possibly, their families were acquainted in the old country. Several of Isaac Shuter's sons became "travelers in jewelry", perhaps learning their occupation from their grandfather Lesser. Others were licensed victuallers (pub-keepers).

We think that Barnett Renovitch (possibly originally Rejnowisc) came to London from Vilkaviskis, Suwalki, now in Lithuania, in about 1880. He was our latest immigrant to England and was nearly in the flood of Ashkenazi Jewish immigration that started in 1881. Barnett and several of his sons were tailors. Several other sons were licensed victuallers. The interesting thing about the Renovitches, besides their habit of spelling their name in random ways, is that they sometimes didn't use their name, Renovitch, at all. On the 1891 and 1901 census, Barnett and his family are listed as Goldsteins. In about 1920, several of his sons abandoned the name Renovitch altogether and switched to Gould. Barnett married Eva King, whose father was also a tailor. The Kings and their associated families, Harris and Woolf, were early London families, having been established there since at least the beginning of the 19th century. Sam Gould, one of Barnett's sons, married Ethel Nellie Friend.

Morris Friend, Ethel's father, was from Hungary, another tailor. I don't have much information about him. He married Rachel Levy, from possibly our sole Sephardic Jewish family and the family that eventually became our economically most successful. Benjamin Levy, Rachel's father, immigrated to London in about 1836 from Fraustadt, Posen (now Wszowa, Poland). He was a furrier but also invested in real estate. He passed both his occupations on to the next generation. Eventually his descendants dropped the furrier business and concentrated on real estate. Benjamin's grandson, Claude Leigh (changed from Levy) founded the London real estate company now called MEPC and became fabulously wealthy. Unfortunately, he was not in our direct family line, being only a cousin to our grandmother.

Please browse our family group sheets. Within a family group page, if you click on the name of a person you will get to his/her personal page and some have lots of details, such as census entries.Some of the more recent family members also have associated photographs - if not of the person then perhaps of his/her tombstone. Be sure to take a look - click on the tiny camera icons located beside the individual names for photos of that person or by the marriage dates for family photos.

Astronomical Images
The astronomical images on the border of this page were taken from the Nebulae page of the public information website of the Hubble Space Telescope, a source of almost endless beautiful images. See it for more information. Since both my spouse and I are astronomers, I think it is appropriate to have an astronomical theme for our pages.

Last updated 1 June 2005