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Family spelling variants includes Howells, Howle, Howl, Howels, Howel

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HOWELL Family History


The primary source of this ancient and distinguished surname is the Old Welsh male given name "Hywel" meaning "Eminent, Prominent". This name was borne by Huwal West Wala Cyning (King of the West Welsh), recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles of Devonshire, dated 926, and by Hywel Dda, Hywel the Goat, Prince of all Wales and collector of the Welsh laws circa 950. In 1184, one Hoelus de Charlion was noted in the ipe Rolls of Glamorgan, and a Howell filius (son of) Ade Walensis appears in the 1221 Shropshire Assizes. Early examples of the surname include: William Hoel (Wiltshire, 1183); John Howel (Cambridgeshire, 1313); and Hyllar Howell (Somerset, 1327)...


Howell (Variants: Howel, Howels, Howl, Howle, Howells)

An English and Welsh relationship name., from the Welsh male given name Hywel ‘eminent’. In eastern counties of England, where Bretons were numerous, it is normally from the cognate Breton personal name Houuel , Huwel , Huwal , Howael.

Also from Houl, the sun; Greek, Hλ ος, Euhill, high, exalted.

Geographically, it is an English locative name from Howell in Lincolnshire, from an Old English hugol ‘mound’, ‘hillock’ or hune ‘hoarhound’.

Early bearers of the surname include: Howell’ filius Ade (Walensis), 1221 in Assize Rolls (Shrops), Morganus filius Hoel, 1166 in Pipe Rolls (Shrops); Geffrei Hoel, about 1100–30 in Tengvik (Devon); Bald’ Hoel, 1183 in Pipe Rolls (Wilts); Gryff’ ap Howel’, 1379 in Poll Tax (Blakemere, Herefs); Johannes Howel, 1381 in Poll Tax (Mucklewick, Shrops); John Howell, 1539 in IGI (Bristol, Gloucs); Johan Howell, 1559 in IGI (Much Dewchurch, Herefs).

Thomas Howell, an English convict from Bristol, was transported aboard the "Anson" on 23 September 1843, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia.

In 1891, the surname was recorded in England and Wales with 13,508 occurrences and a fewer 90 in Scotland. In 1881, the surname was widespread, especially Wales, Norfolk and Suffolk, Surrey and Sussex but was also reported as a top surname in the Bristol district, located in the county of Gloucestershire.

In 1881, the most common Howell occupation in the UK was Farmer. Farmer, Agricultural Labourer and Coal Miner were the top 3 reported jobs worked by Howell. A less common occupation was Labourer.

John Thomas Howell (1903 – 1994) was an American botanist who became and epert of Eriogonum species, known as buckwheat. In honour of his name, the genera Howellanthus, known as Scott Mountain phacelia of the Boraginaceae and Johanneshowellia of the Polygonaceae family. Despite it’s name, buckwheat is a grain and not wheat, therefore does not contain any gluten, making the grain favourable for those with gluten intolerances of ceoliac disease.  

Another noted, Anthony Howell (b.1971), an English actor who is best known for his role as Sgt. Paul Milner in the British TV series Foyle’s War.

1881, 1891 Census

1881 Census in Gloucestershire

Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003

Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890

The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016

1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain

1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain


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Amy Howell Whitehouse

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