The Origin Of Our Family Name Stagles
(Steggall, Steggles, Stygall)
02/03/2008. DNA and Genetic Family Tree updates added,
28/01/2008, American Family Page added,
American Genetic Family Tree added.
Our family name is Stagles. During our research we have found this to be a variant spelling of the name now most commonly spelt as Steggles. The other main variant spellings being Steggall and Stygall.
In Britain today, we believe there to be at least 1, 307 adults sharing 18 differently spelt variants of this name.
Variant Spellings in Britain Today
The following adults have been found in the 2002 electoral register;
Steggles 646, Steggle 46, Steggel 24, Steggell 23,
Steggall 234, Steggals 42, Steggalls 40, Stegalls 5, Stegall 2, Steggal 2,
Stygall 91, Stygal 44, Stigle, 10, Stygalls 9, Stygaall 2,
Stagles 82, Staggall 3, Stagoll 2
Hereditary, or fixed surnames were adopted by most families in Southern England during the 14th century. At this time the vast majority of the population was illiterate and the spelling of the English language had not yet been formalised, so those recording surnames spelt them as they sounded, there was no fixed way of spelling any particular name. Spelling of the English Language gradually became standardised during the 17th and 18th centuries, but still the majority of the population were illiterate and unable to spell their own name.
As people with regional accents moved out of their original area their names will have sounded differently. Many of you who have searched parish and census records will have seen the spelling of a particular family name vary from record to record right up to the end of the 19th century. This is why there are now so many different ways of spelling what was once the same name.Geographical Origins of the Name Steggall
When referring to our name in general, we will use the "Steggall" spelling as it was the most commonly recorded version prior to the 1871 census. We have noted all recordings of this name and it's variants from the 1841 census from both the www.origins.net and www.ancestry.co.uk sites. This showed over 50% of all Steggall's living in Suffolk and most of the remainder living in either the bordering counties of Essex, Cambridge, and Norfolk or London (then recorded as Middlesex and Surrey). In 1841 London with a population of almost 2 million was the biggest city in the world. Being only 150 km from Northern Suffolk, it's not surprising that many of our ancestors migrated there.
Steggall 1841 Distribution in Britain
England 652, Wales 0, Scotland 0,
Suffolk 367, Essex 37, Cambridgeshire 5, Norfolk 124,
Middlesex 54, Surrey 41,
Durham 1, Yorkshire 1, Lincolnshire 2, Cheshire 5, Hertfordshire 7, Sussex 3,
Dorset 1, Gloucestershire 2, Somerset 2,
Steggall 1674 Distribution Found From The Hearth Tax Lists
A tax on hearths or chimneys was levied twice a year by the government from 1662 to 1688. This was payable by the head (who's name was recorded) of every household. Most of the records have been lost or perished. However in East Anglia the Suffolk 1674, Norfolk 1664 and Essex 1662 returns are available.
All 21 of the returns we found were for Suffolk One of those listed was recorded as just Mr Stegall. The title Mr, without a Christian name usually denoted a squire or nobleman. Ten of the families listed were exempted because of their poverty. These are shown with an * in the table below.
Thirteen of the 21 were in the shaded area of greatest Steggall population found from the 1841 census and shown on the appropriate map.
It should also be noted that 9 of the families were recorded as Stegold.
| Lawrence Stegall *||E5|
| High Ward, Bury St Edmunds|
| Rob Stegall *|
St Maries, Bury St Edmunds
Great Barton, Thredwastre
William Stegall *
Bradfield St Clare, Thredwastre
Robert Stegold *
James Steggall *
Coney Weston, Blackborne
Widow Stegall *
East Bergholt (Bargholt), Stamford
Frewer Stegold *
William Steggall *
Old Newton, Stow
Mary Steggold *
Widow Stegold *
St Matthew, Ipswich
Mr John Steggold
SuffolkWas a mainly agricultural county of small villages and farms in East Anglia, bordered to the South by Essex, to the West by Cambridgeshire, the North by Norfolk with the North Sea bordering the East Coast. During the middle ages Norfolk and Suffolk gained prosperity through the woollen trade.
The Steggall families were concentrated in the Central Northern part of Suffolk in the area centred around the villages of Cotton, Mendlesham, Finningham, Wickham Skeith and Gislingham. Large populations were also found in Rattlesden just to the South and Bury St Edmund, the local market town just to the West of these villages.
1841 Steggall Distribution Map of East Anglia
The Origin Of Our Name
We know of four possible theories to the origin of our name, the derivations being from;
- Stygol meaning "stile maker"
- Stygol or Stygel meaning "dweller by the steep ascent"
- Steggall meaning "dweller by the stag slope"
Are We Descended From Humble Stile Makers?
This appears to be the most widely believed theory. It is not only the official theory of the www.steggles.com website but was also endorsed as being the most likely origin in the surname history for Stagles in issue 38 of "Your Family Tree Magazine" This magazine also suggests that the family originated elsewhere with one son who moved to Suffolk being the ancestor of this large Steggall population.
We think this is unlikely.
During the 14th century when our surname almost certainly became herititary, their would not have been any stilemakers. The countryside was open, there would have been very few walls or fences to build stiles over and surely if any stiles were built they would have been built by the fence maker or mason, not a specialist stile maker.
Furthermore, the Steggall population distribution is highly indicative of a locative surname rather than an occupational one.
Are We Descended From A Single Family Or A Clan?
There are pros and cons for both theories. The argument for the clan theory is as follows:
The Steggall population of East Anglia is too great to be descended from just one family. Because of the Black Death, the national population fell during the 14th century from about 6 to 3.5 million. By 1841 it had risen to 15.9 million, ie a 4.5 fold increase. Unless the Steggall population increased at a far, far greater rate there must have been about 100 Steggall in 1400.
On this basis it is reasonable to assume that when they took the Steggall surname there were about a hundred or so people living together in a clan or settlement in this part of Suffolk. Gradually their families would have multiplied and spread out from the original location.
The argument for single family origin is as follows:Surnames were acquired to help distinguish between people at a time when over 50% of the men and 50% of the women each shared just 3 christian names, so it would seem very unlikely that people from the same settlement took the same surname. Topographical names such as Wood, Field, Hill were taken by the family in a village living next to the wood etc. Place names were usually given to a family that had mooved from that place.
So maybe we are all descended from a single family who had lots of sons and survived the Black Death. Professor David Hey, in his book "Family Names and Family History" published in 2000 gives many examples of names, no rarer than ours (Shakespear included) that he thinks derived from a single family.
It would be interesting to know if any of these have now been proved through DNA analysis.
Even today both Steggall and Steggles are most concentrated in Suffolk as shown on www.spatial-literacy.org
West Country Steggalls
There may also be Steggalls families, unconnected to the Suffolk families who originated in the West Country. On the www.genuki.co.uk site there is a mention of the manor at East Ogwell in Devon being owned, for a time by a Stighull family. Various family trees list a William Stighull of Devon, born in about 1350 who married Elizabeth Malston. The Malston family are also listed as past owners of the manor.
The 1841 census showed a small Steggall population in the West Country. Maybe they are descended from this Devon family? Please contact us if you can throw any light on this.
Are We Descended From Dwellers By The Steep Ascent?
This is the suggestion from PH Reany's surname dictionary first published in 1958. He considers our name to be derived from "Stygol" the Old English for dweller by the steep ascent. He also considers the surname Stile to be derived from "Stygol" by the dropping of the "g".However it should be noted that the population distributions for Steggall and Stile / Stiles / Styles are totally different.
Also it should be noted that the Stile name has certainly not evolved into Steggall and that they are not our direct male ancestors, though many of the surname histories treat the names as interchangeable.It should also be noted that whilst our part of Suffolk does have hills and valleys, the slopes are hardly steep.
Are We Descended From Dwellers By The Stag Slope?
This is the suggestion from Henry Harrison's surname dictionary published in 1918. He quotes "Steggall" as being Old Norse for dweller by the Steg-Slope, with Steg meaning a stag or gander.
Where Did We Originate From?
If we did originate from a clan settlement below a steep slope or stag slope, where is this settlement? As a sizeable settlement of over 100 people in the 14th century it seems likely that it would still be in existence.
*Was Steggold Our Original Name?
21 Steggall families were listed in the 1674 Hearth Tax records for Suffolk. Of these 9 were listed as "Steggold" or "Stegold". Did the name "Steggall" evolve from this through loss of the "d"?
The Steggold variant, in various spellings also occurs in the Boyd's Marriage Index from the 16th to mid 18th century. The distribution is mainly in Suffolk with a few records from Norfolk and Essex. Within this area it was widespread enough to suggest that quite a few families had the name.But by the time of the 1841 census only one family (in Holbrook, Suffolk) were recorded in Britain. The name does not appear in the 2002 electoral roll.
Steggold, It's Origin
Steg old ? Old Stag?
Steg gold? Golden stag?
If anyone has traced their family back to Steggold, or known the origin of this name, we would like to hear from them.
Are Steggles and Stagles Patronymic Derivatives of Steggall?
There are four main types of surname;
- Occupational, such as Smith, Baker, and Stilemaker,
- Locative, such as Clitheroe, Schofield, England, and Steggall,
- Derived from Nicknames, such as Little, White, and Brown,
- Patronymics, meaning "son of" such as Jones (son of John), Richards, and Wilkinson. The "son" or "s" denoting son of.
Early records rarely showed our name ending in the letter "s". The following table shows the Evolution of the Steggles / Stagles Names;
| Boyd's Marriage |
| 1538 to|
| Boyd's Marriage |
| 1700 to|
| Census|| |
| Electoral Roll||2002||1307||63%|
For the purpose of this table all Steggles / Stagles etc variant spellings ending in "s" have been counted as Steggles.
It is clear that the Steggles / Stagles names, ending in "s" are relatively new variants of the Steggall name and almost certainly of patronymic derivation.
- If you have any information, ideas, or questions about our origin please e-mail us at, firstname.lastname@example.org