Recorded in several spellings including Axcell, Axcel, Axel, Axell, Aksell, Axtell and possibly others, this is an English surname. It is however pre 7th century Scandinavian origins, and derives from the Old Norse word "Asketill". This was composed of the elements "ass" meaning "god", and "ketill", a sacrificial cauldron or helmet. Early English, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse baptismal names were usually distinctive compounds whose elements were often associated with pagan gods. In this case the name is a quite rare survivor from a time before Christian names were introduced by the Crusaders returning from the Holy Land in the 12th century. In this case recordings taken from early city of London church registers include James Axtell at St Margarets Westminster, on October 1st 1621, the christening of William Axell, on November 22nd 1652, at St. Bride's, Fleet Street; and the christening of Sarah Axcell, on January 18th 1729, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney. A coat of arms is a canting, meaning it represents the surname, and depicts three silver axes on a red shield. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Askill. This was dated 1248 in "Selected documents of the English lands of the Abbey of Bec, Oxfordshire", during the reign of King Henry 111rd, 1216 - 1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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