This long-established surname, now widely recorded in the East Anglian counties of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, is primarily of Anglo-Saxon origin, and a locational name either from Crakenhall, a parish north west of Bedale in the North Riding of Yorkshire, or from Crakehill also in the North Riding. Recorded respectively as "Crachele" and "Crecala" in the Domesday Book of 1086, and as "Crak(e)hale" in 12th Century documents pertaining to Yorkshire, both places are so called from the Olde English pre 7th Century "craca", crake (or the Old Norse "kraka", crow), with the Olde English "halh", nook, recess, remote valley; hence, "halh frequented by corn (crakes)". Locational surnames, such as this, were originally given to local landowners, and the lord of the manor, and especially as a means of identification to those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. In some instances, however, Cracknell may have originated as a nickname for a maker of cracknels or crisp biscuits, deriving from the Middle English "cracknel", referred to in "Promptorium Parvulorum" (a medieval dictionary), as "Crakenelle, brede, crepetullus fraginellus". On March 3rd 1558, Johannes Cracknell was christened at Balsham, Cambridge, and on February 25th 1560, the christening of John Cracknell took place at Great Bealings, Suffolk. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Elias de Crackenhal, which was dated 1220, in the "Curia Regis Rolls of Yorkshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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