This most interesting and unusual surname can be described as 'universal', as it is recorded in all European countries, and most unusually, in the same spellings. It was apparently introduced by returning Crusaders and pilgrims from the Holy Land in the 12th century, and as such derives from the Hebrew given name 'Hevel' meaning 'breath or vigour'. This was originally either a name of endearment or possibly a nickname. As a 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. The early surname was widely recorded in Germany, Eastern England and Southern Scotland, and even today is well represented in its various forms in the registers of those areas. The surname is now recorded in the modern spellings of Abel, Able, Abele, Abelle, and the patronymic Abels, Abelsen, Abelson, and Ableson. Early examples of the surname recordings include Master Abel of Kelso Abbey, Scotland, in 1235, and Hans Abel of Niederstotzingen, Germany, in the 1355 charters of that country. Later recordings include Catharine Abele who married Bernardus Widman, at Jagskreis, germany on January 1st 1780, and Thomas Abele, christened at St Matthew's church, Bethnal Green, London, on May 30th 1818. The coat of arms is very distinctive, having the blazon of a silver field, charged with twelve gold fleur de lis on a saltire of blue. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Abel, which was dated 1197, in the pipe rolls of the county of Essex, during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "The lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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