This interesting surname recorded in a wide variety of spellings including Caswell, Criswell, Crisall, Crissil, Creswell, and many others, is of Medieval English origin. It is locational from ancient villages in the counties of Dorset, Northamptonshire, and Somerset. The derivation is from the Old English pre 7th Century "Coerse", meaning (water) cress, with "weala", a spring or stream. The earliest placename recording is in the Curia Regis rolls of 1196 where the spelling is "Karswell", and as "Cressewell" in the Pipe Rolls of 1286, and in the Feudal Aids rolls of 1316 as "Carsewelle". During the Middle Ages, when it was becoming more usual for people to migrate from their birthplace to seek work elsewhere, they would often adopt the placename as a means of identification, thus resulting in the wide dispersal of the name. Early examples of the recordings include the christening of two sons of William Caswell at St. James church, Garlickhythe, London, on May 28th 1570, whilst Elizabeth Cressolle married Henrie Pekins, at St Margaret Moses on November 19th 1564. Other recordings include Ann Cresall, who married John Yarnold at St Mary Magdalen, on October 7th 1711, and William Crissil, who married Sarah Twinnorth at St Leonards, Shoreditch, on November 20th 1795. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Basilia de Caswella, which was dated 1165, in the "Pipe Rolls of Devonshire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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