This most interesting and unusual surname is a variant of 'Abbs, itself a nickname patronymic form of the popular 'Abel' introduced by returning Crusaders 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 surname was widespread in 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 the marriage of Jane Abbis and Robert Lawter, at Covehithe in Suffolk, on October 28th 1611, the christening of James, son of Robert and Jane Abbiss, on February 2nd 1690, at St. Mary Woolnoth, London, and the christening of James Abbyss at the famous church of St Martins in the Field, Westminster, an October 10th 1706. A notable namebearer was William Abbys, 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 1480, recorded in the medieval rolls of Norfolk', during the reign of King Edward 1V, known as 'The Self Proclaimed King', 1461 - 1483. 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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