This interesting surname is of English locational origin from a minor place in the West Riding of Yorkshire, where the surname is commonest. The place-name derives from the Old English pre 7th Century "freht" meaning augury (a rite conducted by a religious official who observed and interpreted omens and signs to help guide the making of public decisions) plus "well(a)" a spring or stream. The surname is first recorded in the early half of the 16th Century, (see below). In the modern idiom the surname may also be found as Frettwell and Fritwell. Early recordings of the surname from the Yorkshire church registers include; Ralfe, son of Rodger Fretwell, who was christened on September 21st 1559, at Doncaster; on March 12th 1560, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Fretwell, was christened at Braithwell; John Fretwell married Jane Deake on January 19th 1562, at Stainton by Tickhill; Ralfe Fretwell and Margaret Burrows were married on July 24th 1583, at Rotherham; and at Maltby near Rotherham on January 24th 1601, John, son of James Fretwell was christened. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Fretwell, witness at christening, which was dated May 4th 1536, at Hooton Levitt, Maltby, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Henry V111, "Good King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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