This most interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, deriving from two possible sources. The more likely origin is that it is a metonymic occupational name for one who whistles on an instrument or a nickname for one who whistles cheerfully, from the Olde English pre 7th Century word "hwistle", Middle English "whistle", a pipe, flute. Alternatively, the name may have been a nickname given to a good natured, caring or an honest person from the Olde English elements "hwit", white and "sawol", soul. Job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer and later became hereditary, while the creation of surnames from nicknames was a common practice in the Middle Ages, and many modern-day surnames have derived from medieval nicknames which refer to personal characteristics, as in this instance, "the whistler". Simon Whytsall was recorded in 1275 in the Hundred Rolls of Sussex, and Nicholas Whitsawl(e) was mentioned in the Hundred Rolls of Cambridgeshire in 1279. Richard Whistel was recorded in 1297 (Yorkshire). John, son of William Whissell, was christened on January 14th 1643 at St. Giles', Cripplegate, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Wystle, which was dated 1247, in the "Assize Rolls of Bedfordshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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