Recorded in several spellings including Till, Tille, Tills, and in England, possibly Tells and Tolls, this is one of the many surnames which derive not from the fathers name, but the mothers. It is part of modern mythology spread by certain vested interests, that women had no rights in the past, but this is simply not so. Until the late medieval period women enjoyed the same land and property rights as men, and nobody except the nobility, had any voting rights at all. Gradually however various rulers saw in both women and young persons property, a useful source of state income. In the early days of surname development from the 12th century onwards it was quite common for husbands to assume their wifes name, particularly if the wife was the landowner, and subsequent children were called then by the mothers name, which became the surname. In this case the surname was originally a short or nickname form of "Matilda", a baptismal name of popularity, perhaps not surprisingly as Queen Matilda was the spouse of William , The Conquerer. The name, but not as a surname, was first recorded in 1246 when "Tilla" appears in the Assize Rolls of Lancaster. The first known surname recordings taken from surviving charters of the period are those of William Tyl of Worcester, and by coincidence, Richard Tille of Sussex, both in the year 1327. This was in the first year of the reign of King Edward 111, 1327 - 1377, and later known as the "Father of the English Navy".
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