Searle Family History



There are probably scores of ways of spelling the name 'SEARLE' , and so far more than 20 have been found in old records. These range from the freak CYREL or SARDLE to the simple SURL.

Almost certainly all these variants come from the same source - SERLO

This ancient name appears to contain the element 'Searo meaning armour (old Germanic). The name could therefore be derived from the office or trade of 'armourer'.

It was probably Normanised as 'SERLO' and was frequent in Normandy and in England after the conquest of 1066.

Records of the early Norman period are scarce , but the name SERLO is recorded in the South West and in Essex in the Doomsday Book.

The SERLO in the South west of England was a considerable landowner, presumably a reward for an important position under William the Conqueror. In Essex a SERLE coat of arms is of such simplicity - per pale or and sable (i.e. gold and black divided vertically) that it may suggest an early importance for its bearer.

These early SERLO's obviously carried the name as a forename not as a patronymic. At some later date it became a surname and was changed to SERLE ( e.g. Adam and Hugo SERLE - 1226), but was still to be found as a forename as in SERLE Gotokirke ( 1279). ' SERELSON', 'SERRELL', and 'SERRILL' are also recorded in the early middle ages.

In later records 'SEARLE' is encountered equally with 'SERLE'. The spelling 'SERRELL' persists and may be the result of the way the name was pronounced.

In the early days the spelling was often what the official making the record heard. Particularly if a rich Devon accent was interpreted by someone from another part of the country. One of the oddest incidents of a spelling variant can be found in the parish of Rockbeare, East Devon where there a whole generation of SEARLEs are baptised but some of them are written as SARDLE. The only reasonable explanation is that SEARLE in a Devon accent to someone from another area could sound like SAREL or SARDLE. Present day bearers of the name 'SEARLE'/ 'SERLE' will testify to the difficulties others have in spelling the name thus it is not surprising to find that in so many old records there are so many variations in spelling.

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The distribution of SEARLES


Since researching my SEARLE family I have concentrated on my Devon ancestors but I have been aware that there are many branches of the family in other areas. Elsewhere in this website is an article about the American Searle family

Chris Searle who was editor of a newsletter dedicated to the Searle family in 1986 used the IGI to discover the principle centres and reported that apart from his family in West Sussex (Amberley and Storrington) There was an enormous stated SEARLE entry in Hampshire dating from earliest times. Surrey also had an established families notably in the Farnham area.

The presence of West Country Searles are well documented through coats of arms in Devon and Cornwall.

There are Searle coats of arms also in Worcester, London and Essex.

Chris Searle reported a list of SEARLE entries from Durham and Northumberland parish registers - mostly 16and 17th century and information about a SEARLE from Warwick settling in America in 1634. There are also known SEARLE descendants in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA.

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Keith Searle 2004