This uncommon surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and has three distinct possible sources, each with its own history and derivation, Firstly, Whales may be a patronymic form of Whale, itself a nickname from the whale, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century "hwal", Middle English "whal", whale. The creation of surnames from nicknames was a widespread practice in the Middle Ages, these nicknames being originally given with reference to a variety of personal characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral qualities, and supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition. The above term ("hwal, whal") was used, in this instance, to denote a large, ungainly person, or one with a rolling gait. In 1249, Hugh le Whal was noted in the Feet of Fines for Essex. The second possibility is that Whales is a variant of Wale(s), itself a nickname for one of excellent or noble character, from the Middle English "wale", good, excellent (originally "choice"). Hugo le Wale was recorded in the 1220 Curia Regis Rolls of Worcestershire. Finally, Whales may be locational either from the country of Wales, or from Wales in Yorkshire, both so called from the Olde English "Walas", "the Welsh". Alternatively, the Olde English "walu", ridge, bank, may have given rise to a topographical surname, as in, Prior de Wale, Guernsey, 1292. On August 8th 1784, Sarah, daughter of John Whales, was christened at St. Sepulchre's, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Wale, which was dated 1169, in the "Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire", 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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