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Carnelley Family Crest / Carnelley Coat of Arms

This English name CARNELLEY was apparently an occupational name from a crossbowman who specialized in fighting from the battlements of castles. The name was derived from the Anglo-Norman French 'carnel' meaning battlement, and 'crenel'. Many modern family names throughout Europe reflect the profession or occupation of their forbears in the Middle Ages and derive from the position held by their ancestors in the village, noble household or religious community in which they lived and worked. The addition of their profession to their birth name made it easier to identity individual tradesmen and craftsmen. As generations passed and families moved around, so the original identifying names developed into the corrupted but simpler versions that we recognise today. Early records of the name mention William de la Kernel who appears in the year 1244, and Hugo de la Karnell was documented in 1247 in County Northampton. Edward Carnell was documented during the reign of Edward 111. (1327-1377) and Thomas Karnell of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Family names are a fashion we have inherited from the times of the Crusades in Europe, when knights identified one another by adding their place of birth to their first or Christian names. With so many knights, this was a very practical step. In the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries the nobles and upper classes, particularly those descended from the knights of the Crusades, recognised the prestige an extra name afforded them, and added the surname to the simple name given to them at birth. The rise of surnames, according to the accepted theory, was due to the Norman Conquest of 1066 when Old English personal-names were rapidly superseded by the new christian names introduced by the Normans. Of these, only a few were really popular and in the 12th century this scarcity of christian names led to the increasing use of surnames to distinguish the numerous individuals of the same name. Some Normans had hereditary surnames before they came to England, but there is evidence that surnames would have developed in England even had there been no Norman Conquest. The development of the feudal system made it essential that the king should know exactly what service each person owed. Payments to and by the exchequer required that debtors and creditors should be particularized, and it became official that each individual acquired exact identification.

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Last Updated: May 9, 2020

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