Surname Saturday: Skeel

Skeel – An unusual and widely mis-spelt ancestral surname that appears to have roots in 18th Century Middlesex, is this week’s Surname Saturday themed post.

An unusual and widely mis-spelt ancestral surname that appears to have roots in 18th Century Middlesex.

My most recent Skeel ancestor, Elizabeth, was my 4x Great Grandmother. She was born in 1802 in the village of Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire, and was the oldest of a total of ten children – her parents having married the year before her birth.

St Mary's church, Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire.
St Mary’s church, Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire.

Elizabeth’s parents were Job Skeel and Elizabeth Richardson. Whilst Elizabeth was born and died in Swaffham Bulbeck (c.1781 – November 1872), Job’s origins were from outside this small village community, although he ended his days there in July 1860.

Skeel in Middlesex

The only clue so far, as to Job Skeels origins comes from the 1851 census (his last) – where it is noted that he is a ‘former Horse Breaker’ and was born Brentford, Middlesex (now part of modern-day Greater London). If his age was correct in 1851 (74 years), it means that he would have been born in approximately 1777.

In 1841, Job is noted as a ‘Fishmonger’ and because this census simply asks if the person was from within the county, it simply says ‘N’ for no.

Whilst there are many Skeels in and around Middlesex during the 1770s, there are also Skeels in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk – where a Job Skeels (of William and Mary) is baptised in 1777, and closer still to Swaffham Bulbeck, the surname appears in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire.

Great Yarmouth might have been where Job lived after his birth, because this would perhaps support why he’d become a fishmonger – with Great Yarmouth having been a major fishing port until it’s decline in the latter part of the 20th Century.

It is therefore unclear as to where his family were from, and whether they had only been in Brentford for a short while, having come from Norfolk or Cambridgeshire previously.

Further research of either the Brentford or Great Yarmouth parish registers may help to confirm his parents, and whether he had any siblings. For now, it remains a mystery.

Variants of Skeel

The surname attracts a number of variants – possibly due to illiteracy, or maybe due to regional accents (perhaps further support of the potential Norfolk connection?).

  • Skeel
  • Skeels
  • Scate
  • Scale
  • Scales

Surname Saturday: Levitt

This week’s Surname Saturday focuses on the Levitt family of Swaffham Bulbeck in Cambridgeshire, England.

This week’s Surname Saturday theme posting looks at the Levitt family, who lived in the village of Swaffham Bulbeck in Cambridgeshire during the 18th and 19th century.

Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire
St Mary’s Church, Swaffham Bulbeck

My most recent Levitt ancestor was Emma Levitt, who was born in 1825 as the oldest of at least nine children of John Levitt (a blacksmith) and Elizabeth (née Skeels). She went on to become my Great Great Great Grandmother when she married Charles Newman (also of Swaffham Bulbeck) in 1847, with whom she had six children.

The earliest Levitt name bearer in the Swaffham Bulbeck parish registers appears on 12th November 1750 when my Great x6 Grandfather James Levitt married local girl Frances Roote (she was about 16 at the time).

James and Frances settled down to have nine children over a 22 year period. Their fourth child, and oldest son, born in 1758 was James Levitt – my 5x Great Grandfather. With this James having married Elizabeth Fabb and bringing three sons into the world, the youngest – John Levitt – was born in 1797. By 1824, John was married to Elizabeth Skeel, and his father was dead.

The faux-Hardings on the 1871 census
John and Elizabeth Levitt appeared as ‘Hardings’ on the 1871 census for Swaffham Bulbeck.

Swaffham Bulbeck was still home to the Levitt family, and would remain so during through the 19th Century census returns (including a stint where John and Elizabeth were disguised by their married daughter’s name on the folio – proving a small challenge to find them) whilst John and Elizabeth rear a brood of nine children – all of whom appear to have survived into adult life. The oldest of these is where the Levitt family name ends (at least for me), when their oldest child – Emma Levitt (born in 1825) married my Great Great Great Grandfather Charles Newman.

Emma’s Levitt siblings appear to have married and bore their own families, helping to keep the family alive.

Swaffham Bulbeck


There seem to be a few variants of the surname’s spelling, but the main ones that I have seen are: Levitt, Levit, Levet, Levett and Livett.

John Ayto‘s book “Encyclopedia Of Surnames” notes that Levett may have come from a few different origins.

(i) ‘person from Livet’, the name of various places in Normandy, of unknown origin; (ii) from the medieval personal name ‘Lefget’ (from Old English ‘Leofgeat’, literally ‘beloved Geat’ (a tribal name)); (iii) from a medieval Norman nickname based on Anglo-Norman leuet ‘wolf cub’.