This unusual surname is Olde English, and can be both topographical and job descriptive. It describes one who lived by 'The Cyrnel' which was the centre point of the defensive walls of a fortress or town, and/or was a foot soldier of the guard of 'the Cyrnel'. The later Normans called the centre point of a castle 'the Keep', but the meaning is much the same. 'The Cyrnel' would be the toughest place for besiegers to crack, and it was also guarded by the elite soldiers. Presumably to be called 'a cyrnel' was a considerable mark of distinction. There has been speculation that the rank of 'Colonel'derives from the same source, but this seems unlikely. 'Colonel' is from the Latin, and literally describes a column of troops. The surname, whilst rare, has a number of different forms. These include Kernell, Curnell, Kirnell, Kernall, and Kernel. The latter is generally found in the USA and the Continent, and is the German- Dutch variation of the name, with exactly the same meaning. The eminent Victorian etymologist Canon C W Bardsley believed that the surname had died out in the U K, and was only to be found abroad, but this is not the case. The Rolls of Lincoln for the year 1300 describe an unfortunate lady - ' a mayden, whitt as a lely floure' who it was said 'lay in a kirnelle of the towre'. Early recordings include Robert de la Kirnelle of Huntingdon in 1273, and Baltazer Kernell, son of Abraham Kernell, christened at St Boltophs, Bishopgate, London, on September 24th 1581. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Kernelle, which was dated 1273, in the Hundred Rolls of the county of Huntingdon, 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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