The surname of NORVELL is a curtailed form of NORMANVILLE, and a certain Robert NORVYLE, witnessed a charter of lands in Fife, Scotland in the year 1373. Johannes de NORWALD was witness to a notarial instrument in 1413 in Paisley and John NORVAILE and George NORVIL are recorded in Stirling in 1471. William NORVELL was 'the thesaurar of the burght of Stiviling' in 1561 and he also represented Stirling in the Scottish Parliament between 1568 and 1586. 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. Later instances of the name include Gilbert NORVELL, who was the burgess of Aberdeen in 1605, and John NORWALL was a merchant burgess there in 1611. William NORWELL was a burgess and the guild brother of Glasgow in 1619. Alexander NORVALL was a notary at Carluke in 1656. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.
The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Registered at Gargunnock, Scotland.
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