Recorded in a range of spellings including Carswell, Careswell, Caswell, Creswell, Criswell, Crisall, Crissell, Crissil and others, is of early medieval English origin. It is locational from ancient villages in the counties of Dorset, Northamptonshire, and Somerset. The derivation is from the pre 7th Century word coerse, meaning water cress, with weala, a spring or stream. The earliest placename recording is in the Curia Regis rolls of 1196 for Dorset where the spelling was Karswell, 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 name of their former home as identification, thus resulting in the wide dispersal of the name. Early examples of recordings taken from surviving church registers of the city of London include William Caswell at St. James Garlickhythe, on May 28th 1570, whilst Elizabeth Cressolle married Henrie Pekins, at St Margaret Moses on November 19th 1564. Other recordings include Ann Cresell, 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. This was dated 1165, in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Devonshire, during the reign of King Henry 11nd, known as "The church builder", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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