This name, with the variant spellings Kelsall, Kilshall, Kilshaw, Kelsell and Kelsow, is of English locational origin from the villages of North or South Kelsey in Lincolnshire. The former was first recorded as Northchelesei in the Domesday Book of 1086 and later as Nordcheleseia in the Lincolnshire Pipe Rolls (circa 1115). The latter first appears as Suthkelleseye in 1262 and the surname emerges shortly afterwards, (see below). The first element of Kelsey is believed to be the genetive case of the Olde English pre 7th Century personal byname "Cenel", from "cene", fierce or brave, plus "eg", an island, hence "Cenel's Island".The name is particularly well recorded in Lincolnshire Church Registers from the mid 16th Century. On June 10th 1541, Barnabas Kelsey, an infant was christened in Epworth. Thomas Kelsey (deceased 1680) was Lieutenant of Dover Castle in 1651 and Commisioner for the Navy and Major-General of the Kent and Surrey Militia in 1655. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Brice de (of) Keleseye, which was dated 1272, in the "Hundred Rolls of Lincolnshire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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