Recorded in a large number of spellings including Graysell, Grisle, Griss, Grisard, Grissard, Grisold, Grissold, Grizell, Grizzell, Grezill, and others, this is an Anglo-French surname. It has two known origins. The first is a pre medieval French nickname for a person with grey hair at a time when few lived long enough to become grey, whilst the second is residential for one who lived by a prominent tree, probably either a birch or a poplar. The derivation in the first instance is from the pre 7th century word 'gris' meaning grey, or and the second from from the equally old 'grisard' meaning a grey or white, tree.To add to the confusion in many cases the suffix ending of '-ard' or '-ell' was used in a diminutive or pejorative sense. A coat of arms was granted to the Gris family of Anjou in Northern France, and also the Grisard family of Liege, a French speaking province of East Belgium. Both have the blazon of a black cross on an ermine shield, although the Griss blazon also includes a mullet. It is unclear when the name was first recorded, but in England it may have been associated with the 13th century Flemisth weavers. Early examples of the surname recording taken from surviving registers of the city of London include those of Silvester Grysell at the church of St Benet Fink, on September 12th 1545, Roger Gresold at Allhallows church, on July 9th 1551, and Ann Grizell at St Giles Cripplegate, on May 30th 1658. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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