Recorded in the spellings of Swale and Swales, this is an English surname. It is locational, and according to the famous Victorian etymologist Canon Charles Bardsley, originates from either a hamlet called Swallow Hill, near Barnsley in Yorkshire, with Swale being the local dialectal pronunciation and spelling, but more likely from being formerly resident beside the River Swale in Swaledale in North Yorkshire. The river name is derived from the pre 7th century Anglo-Saxon and German word "swalm" meaning a whirlpool, intermixed with the Old English "swillan" meaning to wash. The translation is the whirling, rushing river, which may well be so, as even in the 20th century the Swale is a wild river in winter. Where the surname is in the plural form of Swales, this like the suurname Brooks describes someone who was still resident by the Swale, rather than one who was formerly at the place. Amongst the many interesting recordings is that of George Swales, an early emigrant, who was granted lands on the island of St.Christopher in the West Indies. He sailed on the ship "Mathew of London" in 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Ricardus Swale. This was dated 1379, in the Poll Tax rolls of the West Riding of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Richard 11nd of England, 1377-1399. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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