This long established and widely distributed surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and may be either a topographical name from residence by a fern covered hill, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century "fearn", fern (a collective noun), with "hyll", hill, or a locational name from any of the places named with the above elements. These places include: Farnell (Wood) in Kent; Farnell (Copse), Wiltshire; Farnhill in the West Riding of Yorkshire, entered as "Fernehil" in the Domesday Book of 1086, and Fernhill in Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Worcestershire and Lancashire. Some instances of the surname may derive from Farnell in the former county of Angus, Scotland (now part of the Tayside region). Duncan de Ferneul, who witnessed charters by Malcolm, earl of Angus, between 1214 and 1246, is the earliest known namebearer from this source. Recordings from English Pipe Rolls include: William de Fernhulle (Hampshire, 1263); Hugh de la Fernhull (Worcestershire, 1275); and William atte Farnhulle (Surrey, 1298). One Alexander Farnell was noted in a Calendar of Letter Books for the City of London in 1414. A Coat of Arms granted to the family is a gold shield, on a red bend three annulets of the field within a bordure of the second bezantee; the Motto is "Persevere". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Farenhull, which was dated 1214, in the "Curia Regis Rolls of Berkshire", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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