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Name Overview
AN OVERVIEW OF THE PRIESTNALL SURNAME

Research has been done over a number of years to narrow down the meaning of the name Priestnall and its derivative names.

A number of arguments have reigned as to the exact spelling of the name, but it is without doubt that the originating family name is Priestnall, with the many variations that have been used over the centuries.

It is debatable as to exactly where the name originally came from with the added difficulty that the normal avenues of reference for surnames are distinctly empty when it comes to studying this name.

There are varying schools of thought that narrow the name down to two possibilities.

1. That the name Priestnall is derived from some long gone hamlet in Cheshire U.K.

2. That the name Priestnall is a derivative of an old occupation.

If we look at the possibility that it is derived from a place name, and start to look at various place names past and present around the U.K., then the main possibilities are Preestall (Lancashire), Prestbury (Cheshire) and Prestbury (Cheltenham, Gloucestershire).

Gloucestershire is totally ruled out, as we can be positive that Priestnall is a northern name, so the most obvious place would be Preestall (Lancashire). No Priestnall's are known to have existed anywhere near this village, in fact very few Priestnall's lived in Lancashire in the early years, therefore this is also ruled out.

One worldwide (genealogical?) organisation (Hall of Names) appears to have already been fooled by this Lancashire village, and insists that Lancashire is where the Priestnall name originates. Do not be mislead by the potted histories from these type of organisations, although they can provide a nice scroll, factual they are not, and the information contained, which is similar whatever your surname, must be taken with a very large pinch of salt.Check out this website for details of this and other genealogical scams.

We are now left with Prestbury (Cheshire). In fact in the dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames (George Waring Bardsley - 1901) the author refers to this name as being a local name, probably from some spot in Cheshire. A further clue into the name is from an article in Cheshire Life magazine, dated June 1984, where the author (Colin Rogers) in quite a lengthy piece, notes that the name appears to have evolved around the village of Prestbury. It is hoped to publish this article in full in the future, subject to permission being granted.

I therefore think that from the information available so far, we have to be satisfied that the name originates from some long gone hamlet in the Prestbury area of Cheshire, and that Prestbury is the originating centre of the Priestnall dynasty. The large number of Priestnall families that have ties to the Prestbury area, especially the hamlet of Butley now swamped by Prestbury, seem to confirm this belief.

What does still puzzle me at the moment, is the large number of Priestnall's that appear to have inhabited the County of Leicestershire, especially around the city of Leicester and although until the 19th century were outnumbered by the Cheshire Priestnall's, their numbers have since grown. It is an area of my research still ongoing, and any clues would be gratefully received.

It is quite unlikely that the name has arrived from an old occupation, although this must not be totally dismissed, The closest occupation likely is ' the toller of the bell' (priest knell), although Priest Knoll could refer to the Priest on the Hill.
I think that we have to be open minded on the exact meaning of the name, but accept that we have sufficient information to narrow down the area that the name has evolved from.


RECORDED SPREAD OF PRIESTNALL etc., NAMES IN THE U.K.

Information collected from a 42 million name database first published in 1998. The totals recorded only reflect the adult population, the database being formed out of telephone and electoral records along with the usual inaccuracies.

This analysis includes the Presnell surname for reference only, as at present my conclusion is that the Presnell name has no bearing on the Priestnall name and derivatives. See the overview above.

County

Number Recorded

Priestnall / Priestnal

Priestner / Preistner

Presnel / Presnell

Berkshire

2

   

Buckinghamshire

2

   

Cambridgeshire

   

1

Cheshire

12

49

 

Cleveland

1

   

Clywd

7

1

 

County Durham

2

   

Derbyshire

9

   

Devon

 

1

 

Dorset

3

   

Dyfed

3

   

Essex

3

1

1

Gloucestershire

1

   

Gwent

11

   

Gwynedd

1

   

Hampshire

2

5

 

Hertfordshire

 

1

 

Kent

3

 

12

Lancashire

10

10

 

Leicestershire

34

   

Lincolnshire

1

2

 

London

12

   

Merseyside

 

3

 

Middlesex

1

   

North Yorkshire

3

   

Northamptonshire

3

   

Nottinghamshire

4

   

Oxfordshire

2

   

Shropshire

1

   

Somerset

1

   

South Yorkshire

7

1

 

Staffordshire

8

   

Surrey

1

   

Sussex

1

1

 

Tyne & Wear

 

2

 

Warwickshire

 

2

 

West Midlands

8

6

 

West Yorkshire

3

6

 

Wiltshire

 

6

 

Worcestershire

4

   

Total

162

97

14


RECORDED SPREAD OF PRIESTNALL etc., NAMES IN THE U.K. 1837 - 1870

Information collected from the Registrar General's records for the period 1837 to 1870. One can see from the analysis that Cheshire tops the list as expected, although as the years progress we shall see that Leicestershire comes to the forefront.

As more records are analysed the picture will change dramatically with the improved transport and movement of the population. To see an indication of the changes. See the recorded spread of adult names above for 1998.

This analysis does not include the Presnell surname as at present my conclusion is that the Presnell name has no bearing on the Priestnall name and derivatives. See the overview above.

Total Events by County

COUNTY

COUNTY TOTAL

BIRTH

MARRIAGE

DEATH

Cheshire

117

42

21

49

Lancashire

76

28

36

19

Leicestershire

69

35

10

15

Derbyshire

30

10

5

15

London

27

11

5

11

Warwickshire

23

10

4

9

Stafffordshire

14

6

2

5

Worcestershire

7

1

1

5

Durham

3

 

3

 

West Riding

3

1

1

1

Nottinghamshire

2

1

1

 

Middlesex

1

1

   

Surrey

1

   

1

North Riding

1

 

1

 

RECORDED SPREAD OF PRIESTNALL / PRIESTNER NAMES IN GREAT BRITAIN FROM THE 1881 CENSUS

The information is collected from the 1881 Census of Great Britain, and reflects the spread of the Priestnall / Priestner name. The surprising outcome of this census is how few there were of this family. The total number recorded for the surname Priestnall is 200, and for Priestner is 185.

The analysis shows;
The total of the respective surname for a particular county of census.
The total of the respective surname for a particular county of birth.
The total of the respective surname by marriage for a particular county (In this instance these are wives who only have the surname as a result of marriage).

The fully transcribed 1881 census records for these surnames may be viewed via the Census Menu .


1881 Census Analysis for Priestnall

COUNTY

CENSUS TOTAL

BIRTHS TOTAL

SURNAME BY MARRIAGE

Lancashire

66

44

6

Leicestershire

42

51

8

Cheshire

32

40

4

Derbyshire

13

9

3

York

11

7

3

Stafffordshire

9

10

1

Surrey

9

0

0

Warwickshire

6

5

1

Worcestershire

5

3

2

London

2

4

1

Durham

2

1

1

Sussex

2

0

0

Nottinghamshire

1

3

2

Unknown

0

19

2

Kent

0

2

2

Lincolnshire

0

1

1

Ireland

0

1

1


1881 Census Analysis for Priestner

COUNTY

CENSUS TOTAL

BIRTHS TOTAL

SURNAME BY MARRIAGE

Lancashire

41

28

5

Cheshire

144

139

18

Stafffordshire

0

1

1

Unknown

0

12

2

England

0

5

1


ORIGINS : ANOTHER VIEW

I am indebted to Mike McDermott of Canada for the information that is reproduced below, outlining a view on the origins of the family of Presnail. It is believed that the original document was written in the late 1950's possibly the early 1960's.

ORIGIN OF THE SURNAME AND FAMILY OF PRESNAIL

Presnail is a variant of the English surname, borne by those who in medieval times were resident at PRIESTNALL. Prior to the period during which surnames were adopted, people were known by their Christian name. To avoid confusion the name of their calling or occupation, or their place of residence was added, such as Adam the Tyler, John the Baker, Wat the Smith, Richard of Bourne, Henry of Stone, etc. The stranger became known as Thomas the New Man.

In course of time these became contracted into Adam Tyler, John Baker, Wat Smith, Richard Bourne, Henry Stone and Thomas Newman, etc. Thus James of Priestnall became James Priestnall.

In an age when but a very few were educated in writing and reading, many variations crept into the few documents recording such names, and the same surname suffered many renderings under the vagaries of pronunciation and the standard of orthography of the recorder. Parish registers were not introduced until many centuries after, by which time several renderings of the same surname had become established, which, from that time onward, became more or less fixed. Thus, at the present time we find our own name variously rendered as PRIESTNALL, PRESTENALL, PRESNAIL, PRESSNALL, PRESNEIL, etc.

Harrison, in Vol II of Surnames of the United Kingdom, gives Cheshire as the probable county of origin. The name itself is not found in earlier forms than PRESTENHALL of the 16th century.

PRESTEN is a Middle English (12th to 15th century) adjectival form of PREST (priest). This syllable of the surname originates from PRESBYTER (the priest), now PREST, PRESTER, PRIEST, comparing with the ancient form PROEST or PROSSER, as in **** PROEST, as recorded about 962.

PREST, PROSSER, PRESS, like Fryer and Frere, represented the lower clergy in the surname roll.

O. E. PROEST, (priest, parson) is found in several place names, as PRESCOT, PRESTON, PURSTON, ETC. It is not possible to decide whether the meaning of such names is;

i) Village with a priest

ii) Parsonage

iii) Place belonging to a priest

iv) A college of priests

It cannot be stated with certainty what 'ALL' represents

Old Mercian Hall - a hall

Old English H (e) al (h) - a nook, corner

Old English H (e) al (d) - a slope

From these various meanings place upon the two syllables of our surname, I deduce that PRIESTNALL, PRIESTENHALL, refer to a place or hall, belonging to a priest of college of priests: that the bearers of the surname PRIESTNALL - and of its variations, are descendants from (a) members of the lower clergy, (b) servants of the priests hall, and (c) the villeins and yeoman stock who farmed the demesne of the priests hall.

In arriving at these conclusions I have discarded the possibility of the surname having been derived from Celtic or Welsh origins. From these origins it could be deduced that (i) PRESS (Welsh) is derived from ap Press, the son of Rees, and (ii) NEIL (Celtic) meaning champion, as surviving in the Irish and Gaelic NIALL, NEIL, NOILE, NEILL, NEILD.

My reason for discarding the possibility of Celtic origin is based upon the fact that none of the individuals bearing our surname show any trace of Welsh or Celtic physiognomatic characteristics: whereas in features, physique, temperament, and character, they exhibit English origin. I have little hesitancy in stating my opinion that the family is of English stock deriving from the Teutonic invasions of Angles, Saxons, and Jute's, the members of which expeditions commencing in 449 AD, settled in the country as far north as Cheshire and Lancashire.

My assumption is that our original stock settled in Cheshire, on lands, which at some subsequent date was granted to the Church. Residing on church lands they became members of the lower clergy: servants of the priests: and yeomen in the lands of the Church. During the period of the adoption of surnames, they earned a name indicative of their occupational origin in the first syllable, and of their place of origin in the double syllables surname.

Since commencing my search for the origin of our family, I have received confirmation of Harrison's allocation of Cheshire as the place of origin in a letter I received from Mr. George PRIESTNALL, of Langley, Macclesfield, extracts which read as follows:

"My grandfather was a farmer born at Marlesfields Farm, Adlington, Cheshire. He had a brother, a butcher, in Stockport, Cheshire, and the street where he lived was named after him 'PRIESTNALL STREET': I don't know if there were any more brothers. My father was born in 1846 at Norman's Hall, Pots Shirley, near Macclesfield, he had four brothers. They were all farmers round about this part of the country. You ask if PRIESTNALL is a common name. I am sure it isn't, as we have never heard it anywhere, only my family, through Cheshire or Lancashire..."

The above represents the sum total knowledge of the Family of PRESNAIL which I possess. Should any other member of the family possess further items of interest concerning themselves, their own particular branch of the family, its present area of influence, its previous place of origin; with names and birthdates of elder members, I should be pleased to be placed in possession of such data, to enable me to prepare a brochure, at some later date, which should prove of interest to all.

JAMES PRESNAIL

CHATHAM, ENGLAND.

 

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