This is a locational surname of Olde English and Anglo-Saxon pre 9th century origins. It derives from the words 'prest-halh' and describes a priests house. The surname is recorded in various spellings including Prestall, Presnall, Presnail, Prisnall, Presnell and Pressnell, the latter being the most popular form, although still very rare. What is not certain is where the original 'prest halh' was situated, or in fact whether there were several such places. The only 'modern' villages which bear a similar meaning are Priesthaugh and Priest Hill, both in Scotland. Locational surnames were nearly always given to people after they left their former homesteads, it being an easy form of identification by their new neighbours, and one which in nickname form at least, is still used in the 20th century. Early examples of the surname recordings taken from London church registers includes James Pressnell at St Giles Cripplegate, on November 24th 1667, and Mary Ann Presnall, at St John the Baptist, Shoreditch, on October 7th 1700. Another Mary, this time Mary Pressnell, was christened at St Giles Cripplegate on March 8th 1701, and is believed to be the grand-daughter of James Presnell (above). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Mary Prestall, which was dated February 15th 1613, christened at St Margarets, Westminster, during the reign of King James 1st of England and V1 of Scotland, 1603 - 1625. 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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