This unusual name is Scottish, and topographical in origin. It is mainly from the border region, and derived from the Middle English word "schele", equivalent to the Old Norse word "skali", meaning a shed or hut, specifically a shepherd's summer hut. Later the word also meant a small house, as in the line from Robert Burns: "The swallow jinkin round my shiel". In the modern idiom there are a number of Variant forms of the surname, ranging from "Shiel, Shiell, Sheil and Sheill", to "Shill, Shills, Shiells, and Sheills". One "John Schiell" was recorded as a citizen of Glasgow in 1527, and "John Shill" died in 1721 and was buried in Earlston church yard. Robert Shiels, the amanuensis to Dr. Samuel Johnson when compiling his Dictionary, was born in Roxborough. The name also appears in London Church Registers, the earliest entry being the marriage of William Shill to Dorothy Bradshaw on August 2nd 1702, at St. James, Duke Place. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas of le Schele, Juror on Inquisition, which was dated 1274, Documents relating to Scotland, Public Records Office, during the reign of King Alexander 111 of Scotland, 1249 - 1286. 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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