Recorded as Canwell, Candwell and usually Cantwell, this is a locational English surname. It originates from a place called Kentwell, a now 'lost' or diminished village in the county of Suffolk. It seems likely that the original place name spelling derives from the pre 7th century words 'ceint-waella', meaning the spring by the river boundary, or similar. The surname is ancient and dates back to the 13th century, the very dawn of surnames as we know them. Examples of early recordings include: Thomas Cantewell in the Close Rolls of the city of London in 1446, whilst in the surviving church registers Cicily, the daughter of Thomas Cantwell was christened on March 13th 1568 at St Giles Cripplegate, in the city of London, and Ann Canwell, the daughter of John Canwell was christened at St Andrews Holborn, also in the city of London, on May 14th 1615. The name was also recorded in Ireland, and the reports of the infamous Potato Famine of 1846 - 1848 show that Ellen Cantwell, aged 18, sailed from Ireland aboard the ship 'Henry-Clay of Liverpool' bound for New York on April 15th 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Gilbert de Kentewelle. This was dated 1273, in the Hundred Rolls of Suffolk, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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