NEL was of the baptismal group of surnames 'the son of Nell' an ancient and almost forgotten personal name. The name is also spelt NELLE, NELE and NELSON. Early records of the name mention John Robert Nelleson, 1324, Wakefield, Yorkshire. Nell Fawkes was documented in Cambridge in 1333. Thomas Nellson of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Henry Nelson and Sarah Raby were married in Canterbury, Kent in the year 1687. Buried. James Nelson (in the vault) at St. Peter, Cornhill, London in 1740. Following the crusades in Europe in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, a need was felt for a family name to replace the one given at birth, or in addition to it. This was recognized by those of noble birth, and particularly by those who went on the Crusades, as it added prestige and practical advantage to their status. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function of the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. The acquisition of surnames in Europe during the past eight hundred years has been affected by many factors, including social class and social structure, naming practices in neighbouring cultures, and indigenous cultural tradition. On the whole, the richer and more powerful classes tended to acquire surnames earlier than the working classes and the poor, while surnames were quicker to catch on in urban areas than in less populated rural areas. These facts suggest that the origin of surnames is associated with the emergence of bureaucracies. As long as land tenure, military service, and fealty were matters of direct relationship between a lord and his vassals, the need did not arise for fixed distinguishing epithets to mark out one carl from another. But as societies became more complex, and as such matters as the management of tenure and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to have a more complex system of nomenclature to distinguish one individual from another reliably and unambiguously. The South African surname NEL was first established there in 1690 by a family of Huguenot refugees from Rouen.
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