Recorded in several spellings as shown below, this is an English surname. It is topographical for someone who lived at an 'upper hall'. Derived from the element 'overe', meaning upper as in either a place at the top of a hill, or perhaps a street, or it may refer to a house with two stories, something very unusual until medieval times. The suffix is a short form of 'hall, from the pre 7th century Old English word heall, and meaning a substantial building, one perhaps used for meetings. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names. The modern surname can be found as Overall, Overell Overill, Ovel, Ovell, Ovill whilst Oveal and Ovell are said to be relatively popular in the counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey. Amongst the sample recordings are the christening of Daniel Ovell on November 15th 1581 at St. Mary the Virgin, Dover and the marriage of Nathaniell Ovel and Jane Kye on January 13th 1629 at St. George the Martyr, Canterbury. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Oueral. This was dated 1217, in the Calendar of the Patent Rolls, for Yorkshire, during the reign of King Henry 111rd of England, 1216 - 1272. 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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