View Full Version : Why not Sewall?

John Rees
22nd August 2006, 09:28 PM
The Sewalls in America who descend from Henry Sewall of Coventry have retained the A spelling of the name; that part of the family who returned to England and/or moved to Canada adopted the E spelling. Only recently when browsing some medieval East Anglian records I noticed that the same A spelling for Sewall, presumably the ancestors of the Norfolk and Suffolk Sewells.

If there ever was any family connection between Coventry and thereabouts and East Anglia it has to be sometime before about 1550 so why this similar adoption of the E spelling in East Anglia and when did it start or is the E spelling common there before the sixteenth century?


5th October 2006, 11:00 PM

In my experince the actual variation of Sewell used at any given time depends on many factors. First off how the clergy decides to spell the name - I have seen the same familly called Sewell, Seweal and Sewall and this was by the same priest of the parish! Then of course the name can change when someone else starts writing the names in the register.

Another factor that plays a part I think is the accent. In my recent research in Cambridge there is large number of Saywell's, a version almost totally missing from Essex. In Cumbria the variant Suel is very common but not in the south. If you think of a broad accent that emphasises the 'a' sound then Saywell becomes the given version, if the 'u' sound is prominent then Suel is the result.

Once education become common and communication like letters, telegrams and newpapers arrived in the early 1850's the name became more standardised on Sewell (why this variantion I still have no idea). However some people would keep the same spelling they have always seen. Even today there are Saywell's about and Sewall's and it would familly tradition almost that they keep the same spelling even when another variant is more common.

So in short there are lots of reason for the variations and why regions and famiilies kept one instead of another. I don't think you will find a specific reason for a variant in a location but I would like to know if anyone know of any.