This uncommon name has two possible sources, each with its own distinct history and derivation. Firstly, the surname may be of Old Cornish origin, from an ancient and now etymologically obscure personal name "Gyfel, Cyfel", or "Cuvel", thought to derive from an element cognate with the Welsh "ceffyl" horse. The name may also be locational, as a short form of the placenames Nanskeval or Nanskivell, in the parish of St. Mawgan in Pyder, or (St. Michael) Penkevil. The former is recorded as "Nanscuvel" in 1277, and means "valley of Cyfel", while the latter is recorded as Penkevel circa 1210, and is thought to derive from the Cornish "penn", head, with "kevyll", horse, referring to the fancied resemblance of the area (a promontory between two tidal rivers) to a horse's head. Recordings of the surname from Devonshire Church Registers include: John Kivell, marriage to Elizabeth Paule on September 13th 1568, at Wolborough, and Robert Kivelle or Keville, a christening witness in Ashwater, on October 1st 1758. The second possible derivation of the name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, as a variant form of the locational surname Cavil(l), from the place called Cavil in East Yorkshire. The placename is recorded as "Cafeld" in 959, and is derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century "ca", jackdaw, with "feld", pasture, open country. The first recording of the surname, below, is from this source, and examples from Church Registers include: the christening of Anne, daughter of Francis Kivell, at Belton in Axholme, Lincolnshire, on March 1st 1662. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Tomas de Kavill', which was dated 1190, in the "Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "Richard the Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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