This Norwegian and Danish surname STIEHL was an occupational name for a foundary worker, one who dealt with steel. The name is also spelt STAAL, STAHLER, STAL, STAHLE and STEELS. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. The practice of adopting surnames spread to Denmark and Norway from Germany, during the late Middle Ages, but until the 19th century, they were neither fixed nor universal. The Danish state has in recent years been encouraging the adoption of a wider range of surnames. Georg Ernest STAHL was (1660-1734) the German chemist, born in Ansbach. He became professor of medicine (1694) at Halle and personal physician (1714) to the king of Prussia and expounded the phlogiston theory and animism. A notable member of the name was Marguerite Jeanne STAAL (1684-1750). She was the French writer of memoirs, born in Paris, the daughter of a poor Parisian painter, Cordier, whose name she dropped for that of her mother. Her devotion to the interests of her employer, the Duchess of Maine, brought her two years in the Bastille, where she had an affair with the Chevalier de Menil. In 1735 she married the Baron Staal. Her 'Memoires' (1755) describe the world of the regency with intellect, observation and subtle irony.
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