This most interesting surname, found early in Scotland, may derive from two possible sources. Firstly, it may come from the Old Norse personal name "Liulfr", composed of an uncertain first element and "ulfr", wolf. Alternatively the surname may be a hypocoristic of "Lyon", which comes from two possible origins, from either the personal name "Leo", which was also a nickname from the Latin "leo", lion, or from a place called Lyons (-la-Foret) in Eure, Normandy, recorded in the 1st Century B.C., as "Lugdunum" from Gaulish elements meaning "raven" and "hill, fort". The name is also found in the modern idiom as Lyal, Lyel, Lyell and Liell. John Liel or Lyel was treasurer of the church of Brechin from 1411-1434, according to the Church Register of Brechin and one William Lyell had a tenement in Edinburgh in 1414, recorded in the Church Registers of Glasgow. Gilbert Lyell was juror on an inquisition at Arbroath in 1452 and Andrew Liolle was treasurer of Aberdeen in 1468. Interesting namebearers include George Lyall (deceased 1853) who succeeded to his father's shipowning and merchant business in 1805 and was M.P. for London (1833-1835 and 1841-1837); and his brother Alfred (1795-1865) a noted philosopher and traveller. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Johannes filius Lyelli, which was dated 1329, "The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1264-1600", during the reign of King Robert Bruce, Ruler of Scotland, 1306-1329. 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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