The Kelsall name most obviously derives from the village of the same name in Cheshire. This is supported by population studies which strongly suggest an origin in Cheshire and which show that it is possible for the current population to have grown from a single source at the start of the 14th Century or earlier.




Meaning of the Name

From A Dictionary of Surnames (Hanks P. and F. Hodges, Oxford University Press, 1988), the name means “Kell’s nook or recess” and is derived from the Middle English personal name Kell (Old Norse Kell or Ketill) and the Middle English hale, a nook, recess or corner of land (Old English halh). This is supported in The Place Names of England and Wales (Johnston, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1916 searchable on Google Books) which notes that in Cheshire there are over 250 places ending in -hall or -Hall. Some of these are said to derive from the Old English heal, a palace or court and then a mansion or hall, but “by far the most plainly come from Old English health, a nook, a corner, then a flat meadow by a river”.

Ancient History of Kelsall

The 1086 Domesday Book included a location Cocle at essentially the same location as the present village with one “very small” household.

(Open Domesday:

There were also two households at nearby Willington.

The ancient history of the village of and the Kelsall name in Cheshire is mostly derived from George Ormerod, The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, 1819 (available for download on line; an extract prepared by Andrew Kelsall Pearson is found here)

Ormerod includes the reference to Cocle in the Domesday Book as possessed by Baldric. He quotes an earlier antiquarian, Sir Peter Leycester “The possession of Baldric, who had no other estate, was of short duration, and the manor of Kelsall passed to the bishop of Chester at a very early period, under whom the baron of Dunham Massey held the same as mesne lord”. He goes on:. “8 Edw. II [1309] Hamon Massey, sixth baron of Dunham Massy, with Alice Beauchamp, his wife, obtained the manors of Kelshale and Bacford from [his feoffees to uses,] Adam de Macclesfield, remainder to Richard, son of Robert de Massy).

Some of the earliest references to the Kelsall name in Cheshire include:

  • 1299. Adam Kelsall presented as Parson of Mobberley (The History of Cheshire, 1778; also Advertiser Notes and Queries, 1884 (searchable on Google Books).
  • 1299. Reference to a plea made by Adam de Kelsale related to property near the forest of la Mare (in The Ledger Book of Vale Royal Abbey, Ed. John Brownhill, The Record Society, 1914; searchable at British History Online)
  • 13031304. Reference to Matilda who was the wife of Adam de Kelshale, and Richard son of Adam de Kelshale for fines paid in County Court for “Escapes from Delamere Forest (in Accounts of The Chamberlains and Other Officers of the County of Chester. 1301-1360, published by the The Record Society, 1910; searchable on
  • 1309. In the second year of Edward II, Thos. be Buckleigh obtained from Adam de Kelsall and Eve his wife 6 messuages and 4 acres of land in Kelsall (Hinchcliffe). A messuage is a dwelling with adjacent buildings and lands.
  • William Kelsall was Sheriff of Chester in 1335 (Hinchcliffe, confirmed by Lord Mayors of Chester website). Hinchcliffe also reports that Stephen de Kelsall was Mayor of Chester in 1350. This is also shown in Ormerod’s The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, but it is not confirmed by the Lord Mayors website. (The list of mayors and sheriffs of Chester 1238 to 1415 is interesting in that it shows that what we now call surnames were in use by the gentry as early as 1238 although names such as William the clerk were still in use in 1267. The conjoiner “de” or “le” was in use until about 1350).
  • 1373. References to Adam de Kelsal, and Roger son of Ralph de Kelsal (Some Cheshire Deeds, published by The Ancestor, 1903; searchable on
  • 1399.Thomas de Kelsall was among Cheshire men who were “excepted in the general act of pardon by Henry IV in the first year of his reign on account of their adherence to the fallen monarch, Richard II) (Lysons).

Manor of Kelsall

These references show that the name Kelsall – as in Adam de Kelsal with various spellings – was in use from the beginning of the 14th C. But use of the name was not synonymous with a family of Kelsall being lord on the manor of Kelsall.

As noted above the manor of Kelsall was at one time held by the Massy family. Ormerod provides this description of how the manor may have passed to the Done family: In what manner Kelsal passed to the Dones does not appear, but it became vested in the Flaxyards branch of that family, before the time of Edward IV., [and some part, most probably, had been acquired by the Dones of Utkinton before the time of Edw. III., in the 11th year of whose reign [1338] lived a William, son of Roger de Flaxyordes, mentioned under Tarporley, and a John del Flaxyordes, with Margery his wife, who held lands in Kelshale. These Flaxyordes may either have been a branch of the Dones, or the name been an alias of that family, or they may have been a distinct family whose heiress carried their estate to the Dones. And it is noticeable that in the 3 Hen. IV. [1402] the Wrottesleghs mentioned under Little Budworth, held land here of Richard son of Richard Donne of Utkinton, and others, but who were, possibly trustees, or held perhaps as guardians in chivalry. See Writ of Livery of John de Wrotteslegh. In 4 Hen. V. [1417] Richard Donne of Kelsale, occurs in a recognizance in #18 to the King by him and John de Massy of Kelsale, Thomas de Kelsale of Kelsale, and William de Becheton of Budworth. This account is of current interest in relation to DNA results that appear to link the Kelsall and Done families.

Kelsall at Agincourt

Several Kelsall or Kelsale men are listed in the Soldier in Medieval Database as having fought at Agincourt in 1415, or having served at about the same time.

[extracted by Andrew Kelsall Pearson]

The following copy from the National Archives was obtained by John Lamb, and refers to John de Kelsall. His Captain, Sir John Savage, was an important Cheshire landowner. James Kelsall purchased Bradshaw Hall from a descendant Sir John Savage in 1550.


Spread of the Kelsall Name in Cheshire

The development and spread of the Kelsall name in Cheshire is described in two sources:

  • The Rev. Daniel and Samuel Lysons, Magna Britannia being a Topographic Account of the Several Counties of Great Britain, 1810.
  • The Rev. Edward Hinchcliffe, Barthomley: In Letters from a Rector to his Eldest Son, Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1856 (searchable on Google Books)

Lysons reports “the eldest branch of the Kelsalls who were of Kelsall in Tarvin became extinct at an early period: a younger branch was of Bradshaw and Heathside, both in Cheadle: the immediate descendant of this family is Oldfield Kelsall who is the present owner of Bradshaw Hall but resides in Chester. James Kelsall a younger son of the Bradshaw family settled in Audley in Staffordshire and died in 1583 at the age of 107 years leaving a numerous family, a branch of which settled at Barthomley and became extinct in 1802. Another branch of the Kelsalls, which was of Trafford, has become extinct also in the male line, the heiress of this branch married J. Clegg of Withington”.

Regarding the origins of the name and early Cheshire history, Hinchcliffe draws from Lysons, but he also provides considerable information used to develop the Kelsall family of Audley discussed here.




Eastgate Clock Chester

As presented below the name Kelsall was well established at multiple locations in Cheshire by the mid 16th C. Much later, John Kelsall was Mayor of Chester in 1768 and his name appears on the Eastgate Arch below the famous clock, said to be the most photographed clock in the world after Big Ben.This John Kelsall is said to belong to the Kelsalls of Dodleston or Kinnerton. Henry Kelsall was Mayor of Chester 1843-4.











Early Records Outside Cheshire

References to the Kelsall name outside Cheshire are rare prior to 1600. Some early references include:

  • Wills from the County of Kent found in Wills and Administrations at Canterbury. 1396-1558, and 1640-1650 and Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1383—1558, published by The Record Society, searchable online:
    • John Kelsall, Canterbury, 1510-1
    • Richard Kelsall, Hollingbourne, 1482-3
    • Thomas Kelsall, Eastchurch, 1523-4
  • 1543. Edward Kelsall baptized at Halifax, Yorkshire (found in West Yorkshire Church of England Baptisms Marriages and Burials (searchable on Ancestry).
  • 1535. Sir Thomas Kelsall, “late parish priest of Tedrington is mentioned in connection with illegal hunting (in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 8, January-July 1535, ed. James Gairdner, London, 1885), searchable at British History Online. (This location may have been in Gloucestshire).
  • 1551. Reference to William Kelsall in connection with property in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire (in Calendar of The Patent Rolls Preserved in The Public Record Office, searchable online).

1494. Henry Kelsall of Reading.

The will of Henry Kelsall a clothier of Reading was proved January 1494 and is available online from Ancestry and by ordering from The National Archives. The original is difficult to read but a transcription is found online. The will shows that Henry had a sister from Knutsford, Cheshire, suggesting to me that Henry was from Knutsford also. Henry’s family tree and story is presented here.

Other Origins

In a Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames (General Publishing Co., 1967) Bardsley records the name Reginald de Keleshalle from 1273 in Cambridge and Johannes Kelesall from 1379 in Yorkshire. In The Origin of English Surnames (Barnes & Noble, 1967), Reaney records Kelsale from 13th C Suffolk and Kelshall from 13th C Hertfordshire, both said to be “surviving as Kelsall”.

As explained below, if the family name Kelsall originated at these locations independently from the name in Cheshire, there is no evidence that it survived.

Kelsale, Suffolk

Kelsale is a village in Suffolk, England in the civic parish of Kelsale cum Carlton. It is located approximately 1 mile north of Saxmundham. The earliest reference I found for the name is in The Victoria History of Suffolk (Archibald Constable, 1907) from 1332: “John de Framlingham, clerk, obtained license in 1332 at the request of Queen Philippa, for the alienation to the prioress and nuns of campsey, of the manor of Carlton-by-Kelsall”.  There is also a reference to Kelsale or Kelshale in the 1399 Calendar of Patent Rolls. John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was keeper of Kelsal Park in 1479 (Ref. The Official Baronage of England, Vol II, Longmans 1885). Later references relate to a grammar school at Kelsall near Saxmundham. Parish registers for Kelsale available on line for the period 1538 to 1886 include no persons named Kelsall or variants. Also, there were no Kelsall or variants in the 1841 census for Suffolk. There is no evidence that a family name Kelsall originated and survived in Suffolk.


Kelshall is a small village in North East Hertfordshire, England. It is near the town of Royston. The Manor Kelshall dates to before the Norman Conquest with the name originating as Chelesele (x, xi cent.), and becoming Kelshulle and Kelshille (xiii cent.). (British History Online). I have not found any family name Kelsall or variants associated with this location..

16th Century Records

Births, marriages and deaths (BMDs) have been recorded in Parish Registers in England and Wales since 1538.  Various databases are now available to search online at Ancestry, Findmypast and Family Search The earliest records I have found by county are listed below. (Note that it is difficult to know how complete the records are, and in many cases with older records I relied on transcriptions made by the online source).

Earliest Record from Parish Registers

Cheshire/Warmingham, 1538, Isabell Kelsall married William Kyrkes

Staffordshire/Betley, 1539, Johanna Kelsall baptism

Yorkshire/Halifax, 1543, Edward Kelsall baptism

Warwickshire/Alveston, 1548, Joane married Thomas Hudson

Shropshire/Drayton in Hales, 1561, Joane Kelsall married Petru Goodale

Lancashire/Manchester, 1575, Jane Kylshall burial

London, 1587, William Kelsall burial


Cheshire Parish Registers

Most of the BMDs found on line are from Cheshire. The following table shows the earliest record for each of 30 parishes. This list shows that the Kelsall name had distributed widely in Cheshire by the end of the 16th Century. Most of the first occurrences are in a 30-year period 1559 to 1589. It is not clear whether this was a rapid expansion in this period or an artifact of how parish registers were increasingly adopted and saved. Considering baptisms as the best indicator of where families were living, the largest families were at Wilmslow (27 baptisms), Gawsworth (27) and Plemonstall (11). These three parishes represent 61 percent of all baptisms. The fact that there are no marriages for Wilmslow clearly suggests that records are incomplete.

Cheshire Parish Registers from the 16th Century

ParishEarliest RecordBaptismsMarriagesBurialsTotal
Runcorn All Saints 1560112
Church Lawton156322
Marton (near Congleton)157111
Marbury (near Crewe)158311
Church Minshull158811
Little Budworth158811

The following map shows how the Kelsall name had spread throughout Cheshire to the outskirts of Manchester by the end of the 16th Century and to Audley Staffordshire. It was not established in Buckley, Flintshire until the 1750’s.



Notes; entries for Cheadle are from the IGI, all other entries are from parish registers indexed on Findmypast or Ancestry in following databases:

Diocese of Chester parish register baptisms
Diocese of Chester parish register marriages
Diocese of Chester parish register burials
Diocese of Chester BT baptisms
Diocese of Chester BT marriages
Diocese of Chester BT burials
England marriages 1538 to 1973
England Select Births & Christenings
National Burial Index for England and Wales



My Kelsall Family is from Buckley in North Wales about 20 miles from the village of Kelsall. My tree traces to James Kelsall and Johanna Short who were married in Audley, Staffordshire in 1563. James moved to Audley from Cheadle in Cheshire sometime before 1539 and died in Audley in 1583.

One of the goals of the Kelsall One-name study is to trace as many lines as possible back to Cheshire and if possible to near the  village of Kelsall.