This interesting and ancient English surname is recorded in several forms including Gale, Gail, Geil, Geill, Gayle, Gails and no doubt others as well. It has at least three possible sources of origin. The first is from an early medieval English nickname for a cheerful, pleasant or roisterous person. This is derived from the Olde English "gal", meaning jovial, rowdy or merry. The second source is from a personal name, introduced into England by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066 as "Geil", and having the same meaning as the English "gal", Robert le Geil being recorded in Worcester in the year 1186. The third possible source is from the Old Norman-French "gaiole", meaning a jail, and thus a metonymic occupational surname for a jailer, or possibly a topographical name for someone who lived near the local jail. Job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. The surname was first recorded in the late 12th Century, and Juliana le Gale was recorded in the Subsidy Rolls of Cambridgeshire, dated 1327. Amongst the many interesting recordings is that of John Gale, who was recorded as "living in Virginea", on February 16th 1623. He was one of the very earliest settlers in the New England Colonies, of the future United States of America. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert le Geil, which was dated 1186, in the "Pipe Rolls of Worcestershire", 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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