This name was of the baptismal group of surnames 'the son of Jol or Yoel' a name given to a child born at Christmas time. The name was derived from the Old English word ZEOL, and was taken early by settlers to Scotland. The name was borne by a biblical prophet, and has many variant spellings which include Joel, Yoeli, Joeli and Joely. The first people in Scotland to acquire fixed surnames were the nobles and great landowners, who called themselves, or were called by others, after the lands they possessed. Surnames originating in this way are known as territorial. Formerly lords of baronies and regalities and farmers were inclined to magnify their importance and to sign letters and documents with the names of their baronies and farms instead of their Christian names and surnames. The abuse of this style of speech and writing was carried so far that an Act was passed in the Scots parliament in 1672 forbidding the practice and declaring that it was allowed only to noblemen and bishops to subscribe by their titles. Early records of the name in Scotland mention Johannes Yhole who was the burgess of Dundee in 1374, and Johannes Yhole was the chaplain of Aberdeen in 1391. A quantity of timber was purchased from a Jonete Gule in 1494, and John Youle was an officer in Stirling in 1525. Inza Yowyll held land in Firth in 1553, and Alexander Zule (or Yule) was the headmaster of the Grammar School of Stirling in 1578 until 1612. In England the instances of the name are earlier and William Yol was recorded in the year 1199 in London. William Yoel was documented in Wakefield, Yorkshire in the year 1297. Robert Youle of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379.
Al Jolson (1886-1950) the singer and actor, was originally called Asa Yoelson. He was born in Russia, the son of a Rabbi who emigrated to America in 1894.
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