This most interesting and unusual surname is Anglo-Scottish. It was mainly introduced by returning 12th century Crusaders and pilgrims from the Holy Land. 'Abel' derives from the Hebrew given name 'Hevel' meaning 'breath or vigour', and was presumably 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. For reasons unclear the early surname was widespread in the east of England and Southern Scotland, and is well represented in its various forms in the registers of the area. The surname is now recorded in the modern spellings of Abel, Able, Abele, Abelle, and the patronymic Abels, Abeles, Abells, Abelson and Ableson. Early examples of the surname recordings include Richard Abel of Buckinghamshire in the 1273 Hundred rolls of the county, and Thomas Abell in the Subsidy Rolls of Yorkshire for the year 1301. The surname is also well recorded in Scotland from an early date, Master Abel being recorded in the rolls of the abbey of Kelso in 1235, whilst Thomas Abell, was a burgess of Edinburgh in the year 1387. 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 crest being an arm in armour holding a sword enfiled with a wreath. 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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