Show ContentsKerswill History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The illustrious surname Kerswill finds its origin in the rocky, sea swept coastal area of southwestern England known as Cornwall. Although surnames were fairly widespread in medieval England, people were originally known only by a single name. The process by which hereditary surnames were adopted is extremely interesting. As populations grew, people began to assume an extra name to avoid confusion and to further identify themselves. Under the Feudal System of government, surnames evolved and they often reflected life on the manor and in the field. Lords and their tenants often became known by the name of the feudal territory they owned or lived on. Unlike most Celtic peoples, who favored patronymic names, the Cornish predominantly used local surnames. This was due to the heavy political and cultural influence of the English upon the Cornish People at the time that surnames first came into use. Local surnames were derived from where a person lived, held land, or was born. While many Cornish surnames of this sort appear to be topographic surnames, which were given to people who resided near physical features such as hills, streams, churches, or types of trees, many are actually habitation surnames derived from lost or unrecorded place names. The name Kerswill is a local type of surname and the Kerswill family lived in the county of Devon, at Kerswell.

Early Origins of the Kerswill family

The surname Kerswill was first found in the county of Devon, at Abbot's Kerswell, or King's Kerswell, parishes, in the union of Newton-Abbott, hundred of Haytor. [1]

It was here that the first record of the family was found, namely Basilia de Caswella in the Pipe Rolls of 1165. A few years later, Tomas de Cressewella was listed in the Pipe Rolls of Staffordshire in 1190 and Riginald de Kersewell was listed in the Curia Regis Rolls for Oxfordshire in 1212. In Worcestershire, we found William de Kereswell in the Assize Rolls for 1221 and back in Devon, Richard de Carswall and William de Karswille were listed in the Hundredorum Rolls of 1275. In Somerset, Robert de Carswell was listed in the Subsidy Rolls of 1327. [2]

"Kerswell of Kerswell is noticed by Norden, as being one of the principal houses of his day, but we have not been able to ascertain in what part of the county Kerswell was situated." [3]

In Scotland, the name was typically began with a "C", but some records show that the "K" was frequented too. "William Kersseuyle or Cresseuyle had confirmation of a charter of lands in the barony of Roberton in the sheriffdom of Lanark, 1373. Johannes de Kerswell witnessed a notarial instrument in 1413." [4]

Early History of the Kerswill family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kerswill research. Another 100 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1086, 1212, 1221, 1273, 1598 and 1682 are included under the topic Early Kerswill History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Kerswill Spelling Variations

Cornish surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era. The name has been spelled Kerswell, Kersewell, Kereswell, Kareswalle and many more.

Early Notables of the Kerswill family

More information is included under the topic Early Kerswill Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Kerswill family

An examination into the immigration and passenger lists has discovered a number of people bearing the name Kerswill: Robert Kerswell, who sailed to Barbados in 1654; Richard Kerswell, who came to Nevis in 1663; Walter Kerswell, who arrived in Virginia in 1663 and Joane Kerswell, who went to Jamaica in 1684..



  1. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  3. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  4. Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)


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