This is an unusual and in some ways mysterious surname. Recorded as Shale, Shall, Shayle, Schall, Schales, Shales, Shalless and probably others, it is believed to be early medieval English although its origins are unclear. It may be Anglo-Saxon (Germanic) pre 7th century, and it is possible that it was either residential from living by or on a shale bed, perhaps a rocky area where shale oil was found, or more likely in our opinion it was occupational, and one of the many skills and jobs associated with the textile industry. If this is the case it may have described a maker of schals, or as we know them today, shawls. Shawls have been a traditional product for at least a thousand years, so the manufacture of such items, would have been a productive occupation in medieval times. This surname is also unusual in that it does not seem to be recorded in any of the dictionaries of surnames, some dating back to the 17th century. Early examples of recordings taken from surviving registers of the city of London include Elizabeth Shayle who married Henry Sawyer at St Margarets, Westminster, on January 20th 1611, Thomas Shales, a christening witness at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on August 5th 1624, and Crispin Shall christened at St Martins in the Field, Westminster, on June 18th 1690.
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