The surname of GAITSKILL is of the locational group of surnames, and meant 'one who came from Gaisgill, a hamlet two miles from Tebay, Westmorland. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Early records of the name mention Edward Gaskell, 1273, Westmorland. Alicia de Gasegill, listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Agnes de Gasegyll, 1379 ibid. In 1560 Edward Gaskell of Lancashire, was listed in the Wills at Chester. 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according to the accepted theory, was due to the Norman Conquest of 1066 when Old English personal-names were rapidly superseded by the new christian names introduced by the Normans.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. A notable member of the name was Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65) the English novelist born in Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London. Her father was in succession a teacher, preacher, farmer, boarding house keeper and keeper to the records of the Treasury. She was brought up by an aunt in Knutsford, and grew up well adjusted and beautiful. She married William Gaskell in 1832, a Unitarian Minister in Manchester. Here she studied working men and women. In 1848, she anonymously published 'Mary Barton' followed by 'The Moorland Cottage' in 1850. As well as other novels she wrote 'the Life of Charlotte Bront'. Between the 11th and 15th centuries it became customary for surnames to be assumed in Europe, but were not commonplace in England or Scotland before the Norman Conquest of 1066. They are to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086. Those of gentler blood assumed surnames at this time, but it was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that second names became general practice for all people.
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