Surname Saturday: Poll

This week’s Surname Saturday theme looks at the POLL family of Norfolk, their silk weaving roots, and fascination with Hebrew names.

Handloom weaving in 1747, from William Hogarth's 'Industry and Idelness'. Image: Public Domain via Wikicommons

This week’s Surname Saturday theme posting takes a look at the Poll family – one of the few Norfolk families in my tree.

My most recent ancestor to bear the surname of Poll was Elizabeth Poll, my Great Great Great Great Grandmother, who was born on 12th April 1796 in the market town of Wymondham, less than 10 miles from Norwich, in Norfolk.

Elizabeth was the oldest of the ten children of silk weaver Ishmael Poll and his wife Mary Fiddamont. Ishmael and Mary had married just 13 days prior to Elizabeth’s birth.

The couple went on to have 9 other children – including an unbroken line of 6 daughters before having their first son – then two more daughters – and ending on their youngest child in 1816, also a son.

Elizabeth married my great x4 Grandfather John Howlett in Wymondham, Norfolk on 17th May 1824, and my ancestry then passes through them and their son Thomas’s brief life.

Silk Weaving in 19th Century Norfolk

On the 1841 census, Elizabeth’s father Ishmael, is noted as a silk weaver despite his advanced years (he was 70yrs old). He dies in April 1847, predeceasing his wife Mary, who then appears on the following 1851 census living alone as a pauper.

Ishmael is most likely to have apprenticed for many years in the skills of producing beautiful quality silk weaving, and he would have most likely have worked from home, using huge weaving machinery.

It’s understandable to see why Mary was living in poverty after Ishmael’s death, as his trade was so highly skilled, that it is unlikely that she could have simply continued it on after his death without having had training.

By Hogarth (The Industrious and the Lazy Apprentice) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A 1747 illustration of weaving from a series by Hogarth (The Industrious and the Lazy Apprentice) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Hebrew names

The Poll family is not only unusual in my research because it comes from Norfolk, but it also provides me with some of my most usual names (in comparison to the rest of my family tree) in the 18th Century – Ishmael (male) and Keranhappuck (a female name) – both featuring in the Hebrew bible.

What inspired the use of these names, when the rest of the Poll children were fairly common names?

Earliest Ancestors

The earliest ancestors in my Poll tree are my Great x 7 grandparents – Simon Poll and his wife Ann. They would have been born around 1720, seeing that their son (my next ancestor – Great x6) was James Poll, born in 1741. James married a Mary Syers and they were the parents of Ishmael.

Author: Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin is a British author, family historian, tech nerd, AFOL, and host of The Family Histories Podcast.

25 thoughts on “Surname Saturday: Poll”

  1. Super Blog !Please get in touch have some info/questions .
    Last first : your James POLL I think it’s the other James christened 31/10/1725 that married Mary SAYER a.k.a. SYER (acquitted 25/3/1851 Bigamy). Ishmael’s elder brother John christened 11/9/1756 who’s legitimate children are my line ,and they were into Droving and cattle fattening. Around Wymondham/Silfield.
    Spot on with the odd names !At some point either Job 42:14 was a must read (I suspect the curate as other families also christened after the 3 daughters of “JOB”)or a father’s patience was tested !.No1 Jerimiah No 2 Keziah No 3 Keren-happuch all used in POLL lines however they also sneak in the male versions ie Kerum-happuch b.1810,the occasional “Archer “,”Christmas”and an odd “Charity”the rest as you say were predictably safe given names especially if christened at the Abbey /Parish Church.
    Mary POLL nee FIDDEMENT/ FIDDAMENT/FIDDEMONT, (Vicar spelt it different ways ,couldn’t write an “e” properly and was unable to count /recognise number progression ) was a Pauper so would received Parish funds .to remain at the Lizard ,Wymondham.(Due to inter-marry most of the community residents were either directly or indirectly related at that time .)
    Very few POLL’s ended up in the Workhouse ,unlike Norwich Prison .But that s another chapter .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David, thanks a lot for finding the blog and leaving that comment – what a fascinating chunk of info. Yes, i’ve seen Mary Sayer/Syer too, but you’ve got more info by the sounds of it – if that’s true about the bigamy, then that would be my first brush with that in my family tree. Wonder if there’s any news articles relating to the ‘scandal’.

      I’ll be in touch very shortly!


  2. Bigamy to-day is a fairly BIG thing .Because its so uncommon,but put yourself back in the .time of the day .If you wanted to dissolve the marriage partnership in theory you had to apply to Parliament to enact Bill granting a divorce.The cost for your average Ag Laborer was mealy a dream,Even for the landed gentry it would be prohibitive amount The Parish records that we now accept as normal and the act of signing the Marriage register has now been woven into the service as an event .But it is really a signed contract declaration that both parties are of age and are free to marry.
    Licences were sometimes used instead of Banns to cover under age marriages ,But both require the deceleration. If your ancestors forgot to mention that they were already married before re-marrying,was that Bigamy or financial restrictiveness as opposed to ensuring you were a widow or widower.the other acceptable criteria to being entered in the register as either a bachelor or spinster .Being ” Single” doesn’t cut it anymore to marry ,but it ensures Family Historians have to keep an open mind to the written record.


  3. Hi i also am a member of the wymondham Polls. my grandfather was Sidney Roy poll, my great grandfather was George Walter poll


    1. Hi Benjamin,Very Interesting post ,I do not know if you are seeking info but have a few connections myself with the Wymondham/The Lizard/Silfield branches of the POLL line.One of my problem gents appears to be your 2x Gt Grandfather John POLL & wife Emma.( He does not exist in the parish births {that I looked at})If you wish to,please contact me as I have further info .We are very much a minority surname in England but it is an old name to be sure .


      1. Hi i would be very interested in learning more. I don’t know much about the polls.what is funny my uncle is called David lol


  4. Ishmael Poll born 1772 is my 4th great grandfather through his daughter Mary Pointer whose daughter Lydia married into the Howes family of Wymondham. Lydia’s son James is my great grandfather who eventually settled in East Yorkshire. (Ishmael had at least 79 grandchildren!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara, i’ll drop you an email. I’d like to find out more about your branch, as aside from a circa birth date, I have nothing more on Mary.

      And wow, 79 grandchildren! Thats not so common these days!


  5. Barbara (& Andrew). I have an interest as I “do” the Guild One name Study of the POLL surname> Mary-Ann POLL b 1801 married Benjamin Pointer Abt 1824 and who’s daughter Lydia b 1826 and Robert HOWES Starts your connection.However at this point I became stuck due to the large number of James HOWES born between 1843 to 1859 at Wymondham .One branch did re locate to Guisbough /Chaloner Pit en mass.The others stayed in Wymondham ,and although Ancestry has one version I can not be sure they have the correct link./Marraige parners. Without your family insight I have come to a full stop.But five days work has produced a Huge HOWES clan with specific traits and family names that always include a Robert or James.


    1. Robert Howes son James Robert 1858-1907 had three children Edith, Charles Henry and William Arthur, my grandfather. At some point James moved to Fareham looking for work .He and his wife Emma left Charles behind with his grandparents. Eventually James settled in Hornsea East Yorks and William and his children lived in Hull but neither of his sons although married had children . Thus this name has not carried on in my branch of the family. Charles ended up in Chatteris and he did not have sons either.

      Hope this helps.



  6. Hi. My 4 x great grandfather was Ishmael Poll. His daughter Margaret B1805 was married to James Chapman b1804 from Amersham, their daughter Mary Ann married my 2x great grandfather John Lovett Higgins from Newport Pagnell, their son was Henry Charles Higgins b1860 who was in the Navy and who moved to Portsmouth.
    I am very interested in the Norfolk family and would like more info if possible. As Ishmael was a weaver did they originally come from the Continent when Norfolk was famous for textiles and weaving?
    Regards Elizabeth


    1. Hi my wife’s 3x great mother was Kerenhappuch Poll I believe Ismael poll’s daughter. She married a Robert Smith and had a son Zachariah Smith.

      I would love to talk some more about this family


  7. Containing my research today I found out this branch of the poll family is contact to the Kett’s of Norfolk. The family of the Norfolk rebellion.


    1. Thanks for this post Andrew. I am researching a family tree for my friend who is descended from Ann Poll , sister of your Elizabeth. I discovered Mary Fiddement had a child prior to her marriage to Ishmael, William Fiddement b/d 1795. Ann Poll m Barnes Ford in 1825.


  8. The last Ishmael (as there were many), who married Mandy Maria Swatman (pronounced Mari-ya) was my 2nd Great Grandfather. Kerrenhapupuck was a (?)X Aunt and sister to one of the earlier Ishmaels. In my family line, the name was changed from Poll to Paul (hence my name) by Ishmael and Maria. I’m told that this was a dissociation from the families roots. We understand they arrived in Kings Lynne around the 1600s and were of gypsy and/or jewish decent. Ishmael and Maria moved to Manchester in the Salford and cheetham hill areas which are predominantly jewish communities. Their son, Harry was my Great Grandfather and I have found reference to the family using the Jewish Hospital in the early 1900s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr PAUL (aka Ewood Caterers) re message 30th May 2019 via Mr MARTIN’s Blog.Your post was missed by me and only picked up 22 Sept 2020 However it is of great interest ,as I am trying to “do” a Guild One name Study on the POLL and solve name changes like yours to PAUL. Ishmael (Junior Junior (No4))POLL Born 1859 Baptised 1875 (note from Sextent”of Riper Years”)at The Lizard,Wymondham Norfolk ,Married Maria SWATMAN b.1861 (did not know called Mandy!)at Wymondham,Family were Silk weavers until the slump 1870’s at least 4th gen at Wymondham was aware he died in Salford 1936 ,oddly only have children Elizabeth b.1880,Charley b 1887 & Ada b.1895-missing Harry?
      There is a POLL family in Kings Lynne ,and they were show men or carny’s who sold Rock and Candy floss at Fairs ,but the origins are Methodist/C of E.They moved to Holiday towns eg: Cromer and set up shops under the GIZZY surname.
      Salford is a Mystery to me (despite marring a Lancastrian)So any hints would be appreciated .David POLL 22/09/2020


  9. I am a descendant of Mary sayer 1731-1784, and James poll 1725-1776. Their families are of Nobel origins. They’re of French decent mostly, their ancestors being mostly viking royals who married Saxon,Visigoth and Lombard decent royals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan re: 21 Sept 2020 via Mr MARTIN ‘s Blog. -:Parents John POLL abt 1695(have two both born same and both had a son James) and Francis GOOCH b.1700.Oddly the Royal link to the Swedish Inge 1st King of Sweden 1055 and his brother Leif POLL etc from Neergaard Skydstrup is known.Although the surname is more a title than a surname as it means “Head”. Would also be interested in the Decent Links ,as this info I have not got ! and I’m recording the “POLL” surname [badly it seems as I also did not have James Death date.] Thanks David POLL


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