This most interesting and unusual "English" surname is a variant of the popular 'Abel' introduced by returning 13th century Crusaders and pilgrims from the Holy Land. 'Abel' itself derives from the Hebrew given name 'Hevel' meaning 'breath or vigour'. The personal name 'Abel' (Hevel) was borne by the son of Adam, who was murdered by his brother Cain. It was very popular as a given name in Christendom during the Middle Ages, when there was a cult of 'suffering innocence' which Abel represented. For reasons unclear the early surname was widespread in Yorkshire and East Anglia, and is well represented in its various forms in the registers of the area. The surname is now found as Abbs, Abbis, Abbiss, Abbys, Abbes, Abson, Abbison etc, and all may be patronymic (Son of Abb). Early examples of the surname recordings include Willelmus filius Abbs, in the 1273 Hundred rolls of Buckingham, Jane Abs, who was christened at All Hallows church, Honey Lane, London, on October 23rd 1582, and Margery Abbs, who married James Young, at the famous church of St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on May 22nd 1620. On August 25th 1684 William Abbes married Sarah Page, at Great Yarmouth. A notable namebearer was William Abbs, who was mayor of the town of Bedford in 1534. The coat of arms granted in Norfolk, has the blazon of a red field, a fesse lozengy between three silver escallop, the latter being the sign of the pilgrim. The crest is a spur proper. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Abbys, which was dated 1379, in the Poll Tax rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Richard 11, known as "Richard of Bordeaux", 1377 - 1399. 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.
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