Origin of the name Searle

The following information is from the website of Keith Searle, with permission. Follow the link to this website for more information on the English Searle Family Ancestry.



In his book, Surnames of the United Kingdom, Harrison writes that the surname Searle, Searls, Searles, Serle, Serles, Serrell, or Serrill is of Teutonic origin signifying "Armour or Arms". It is derived from the Old Teutonic Serlo, Sarla, Sarl, Sarilo, Serilo. Serli " and the Old English "Searo", it is the equivalent of the Old High German "Saro" which is the same as the old Norse " Sorus" meaning Armor arms, skill or device." It was usually formerly written with a final vowel. Serlo is the usual Old English form and appears in the Doomsday Book. The name of Richard Serle appeared in the Hundred Rolls.

Lowers Patronymica Britannica, states that the surname Serl, Searls, Serle, Searles, Serle, or Serles is probably a form of Serlo, a Norman personal name, the common origin of Sarl, Sarel, Sarrell and Serrell.

According to another book - Guppys Homes of Family Names it appears that Searl(s) or Serle(s) has long been a Cambridge, English family. Serle was a Cambridgeshire name as far back as the thirteenth century when it was also represented in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. The Searles are also common in Cornwall and Devon.

Finally in Family Names, Baring - Gould writes that the name Sorell was not found before the reign of Henry II and is now Sarell, Serle, and Searle, derived from the Norman personal name Serlo.


William de Perci and his brother, Serlo came from Normandy with William the Conqueror in 1066 AD. William and Serlo later settled in Northumberland, then set in order the Monastery of Whitby. William had vast estates and became the progenitor of the Percy family who have been Earls, Lords and Dukes of Northumberland. Serlo had charge of the spiritual interests, and after doing his work there, he went elsewhere.

From excerpts from wills and sundry official papers it seems that SERLO was a monk of St. Michael's in Normandy and Chaplain to William the Conqueror. In the year 1084 A.D, King William spent Christmas with SERLO in the monastery of Lewksburg.

The official Records of the time of Edward III shows that the family inhabited various counties proving possibly an earlier origin, and greatly confirming the tradition of Serlo the Chaplain for William the Conqueror. Serlo was the first Lord Mayor of London (and quoted as the first Mercer) in 1221 A.D.

Research shows that Serlo, the Monk and Abbot of Gloucester, was a highly educated person and his descendants were also highly educated, holding high office in the various cities and Cathedrals, from York to Exeter. This may be why the various and vast manor properties and numerous Abbey lands were granted to the Searle family.

In the inquisitions to ascertain who were the owners and occupiers of the land, it was usually the Abbot or Prior who held the land by charter, gift from the King but it is evident that the Searles were tenants of the Abbey or religious' houses under copyhold leases. Another charter of the 11th century to which Serlo the Cannon was a witness, proves that in 1072 A.D. Serlo was appointed Abbot of Gloucester by William the Conqueror.

Serlo was very successful in his office. When he died he left one hundred monks at the monastery, whilst when he started there were only two, and eight novices. From 1072 he ruled Gloucester for thirty-three years. He built the nave and transepts of the Abbey and died March 3, 1104 .He was buried in the Cathedral.

So perhaps the earliest known Searle is Abbot Serle of Gloucester, who built the nave and transepts of the Cathedral of Gloucester in 1104 A.D., and from this family, the Searles. are descended, which may account for their intimate connection with the church.

The Searle family were soldiers under Edward I in his wars in Scotland, and in foreign parts which will account for the armorial bearings on the heraldic shields then prevalent.

In May 1296 A.D John Searle of Perth along with many other Burgesses and the whole of the town renounced the "League with France", and swore fealty to the King of England, Edward 1.

The Searle family continued as Burgesses of Perth for at least a hundred years after Edward I, and although it is thought that some of the ancestors came from the Perth families, it is also thought that some must have also fought in the foreign wars of the English Edwards. In the time of Edward III the Searle family was in almost every county in England south of Lincoln, either as dignitaries of the Church, or as Yeoman farmers for the manor or church lands. At this time, there was also a connection with Gloucester, Wiltshire, Lincoln, Southton (Now Hampshire), Somerset, and Devonshire. Adjoining counties of Sussex and Surrey, all had Searles who were landowners for the church of Winchester. Sussex also had manors connected with the Cathedrals of Salisbury and Chichester.

So from ancient legal reports the family can be traced from Normandy to Gloucester, to Scotland and south again to Yorkshire. From there to Lincoln from which county the family appears to have divided into two distinct branches. The Elder moving southwest toward the city of Winchester, settling with their families and holding land in all the intermediate counties of Leicester, Warwick, Oxford, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Sussex, Somerset and Devon.

The younger branch followed the same system but travelled direct south towards the city of London holding lands and residing in all the intermediate counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, Huntington, Bedford, Hereford, and Essex, in which county they held in the 16th century, large manorial properties.

The earliest Searle shields were silver or flame color taking the place of gold, for different families in Perth and North England. From 1572 to 1576, there ware Searles buried with this Shield in North Stoneham, St Lawrence Church, the Great Minster St, Winchester and in Ealing Church and Doxford, Southampton.

(With thanks to Keith Searle)

Last modified 3 Jun 2008