Axtell Family OrganizationResearch on the Origins of Axtell

Please send in any clues on the origin of the name Axtell for inclusion here

Reported by David L. Axtell of Boulder CO (1996):
The name appears to me one of many variants of the Old Norse name Asketill, which was an honorific name given to someone who kept the sacrificial kettle (ketill) in which blood was caught during sacrifices to the gods (As). I mentioned this to several Scandinavian friends, including an Icelander whose middle name was Askel (from the same source) and they agreed it was very likely. If you know any Scandinavians, you will probably be familiar with the odd way they pronounce the SK combination. It could very well have changed to an X when the Normans got a hold of it. I also came across a reference to a Nordic Sea-King named Oscytyl the White, who struck terror into the hearts of the Irish in around 950 AD. Spelling was not particularly standardized in those days.

According to The Dictionary of Surnames, by Hanks and Hodges, Oxford Press, 1988, the progression was Asketill -> Asktill -> Akstill -> Akstell -> Axtell. The name Ashkettle is another variant from the same source, but relatively recent. Some other variations they give are Askell, Astell, Astil, Astill, Eskell, Haskel and Haskell. The name also appears in Normandy as Anschetill and Anketill, and in the rest of France as Anquetin and Asketin. In Scotland it becomes MacAsgill and McCaskill and in Manx, Castell.

The name Asketill was apparently quite common in pre-conquest Britain, and appears in the Domesday Book as Aschil, Anschil and Osketel. This is the census that William the C. had taken right after the conquest. The Dictionary of British Surnames by P.H. Reaney, 1958, also mentions an Asketillus de Kedham (1101-1125), an Aschetillus Bardel in 1158, a Robert Asketill in 1200, and an Alexander Asketell in 1205.

British Family Names by Barber, 1968, lists the names Ansketill and Osketill as landowners in the Domesday Book. Bardsley's Dictionary of British and Welsh Surnames, 1901, lists Ralph Axcil and Robert Asketil as being in County Somerset in the time of Edward III.

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Last revised 6-15-96 by Dan Axtell