This rare and interesting name is of Old French origin, introduced into Britain by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066. The surname has two possible derivations: firstly, it may have been developed from a nickname for an old man, or for the elder of two bearers of the same given name, derived from the Anglo-Norman French "viel", old, from the Old French "vieil". The first recording of the surname, below, is from this source. Secondly, the derivation may be from the Anglo-Norman French "vel, veel", calf, from the Old French "viel, veel", used in two senses, as a metonymic occupational surname for a calf-herd, one employed to care for calves, or as a nickname for someone thought to resemble a calf in some way, perhaps referring to a particularly docile disposition. Early examples of the surname include: Richard le Vele (1270, Somerset); William Vel (1276, Suffolk); and Thomas le Veel (1296, Sussex). The modern surname forms from either source are Veal(l), Veale, Veel and Vel(l), and among the recordings of the name in Church Registers are those of the christening of Johanna Vell, in Micheldever, Hampshire, on July 14th 1548, and the christening of Elizabeth, daughter of Ancolas Vel, on March 21st 1673, in Stithians, Cornwall. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Reginald le Viel, which was dated 1173, in the "Pipe Rolls of London", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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