This unusual surname, which at first glance appears to be of "Continental" origin, is in fact of Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse origin, and it is a topographical name for a dweller at a brown coloured stream, or a brown hill. It derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "brun" meaning "brown", and either the Old Norse "skjallr" meaning "a strong stream" or "hyll", a hill or mount. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages.The village of Brownhills near Lichfield is also a possible source of the name, but the predominance of recordings in the London area suggests that the source is a now "lost" place in the South East of England. The surname was first recorded in the late 16th Century (see below), and early name recordings include, Jayne Bronskill who married Edmonde Walker at St. Brides', Fleet Street, London, on September 25th 1602, and Francis Brunskill, who married Katherine Temple at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, also in London, on October 20th 1625, in the reign of Charles 1. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Marie Bronskyll, which was dated May 23rd 1588, christened at St. Mary's at Hill, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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