Origins of the Name

The English surname Presnell and its variants Priestnall, Pressnall, and Priestner (plus a large number of other variant spellings) derived from the place where the original bearer once lived or held land. In this instance, the name indicates "one who came from Priestnal," the name of a hamlet in County Chester in England, which does not exist today.


In the north of England, the place name Priestnall was pronounced Priestnow and from this the name became corrupted to Priestner. Priestnall is composed of the Middle English "prest" meaning "priest" and "knoll" meaning "hill."




Presnell Family History

From England to the New World

         Over 300 Years in America


The Doomsday Book

One of the earliest records of the Presnell surname dates back to 1566 when the baptism of Anna Prestenall is recorded in the Register for the church of Prestbury, County Chester.  The marriage of Thomas Prisnall and Katherine Gortun is listed as 1 December 1578, at Shakerstone, Leicester, England.  John Prisnoll marries Joan Osborne at Totteridge, Hertford, England on 15 August 1584. The marriage of Chariti Presnell and Robert Courthous is recorded in Bishops Caundle, Dorset, on 15 May 1620. Susanna Presnell, daughter of Richard Presnell, was christened on 7 April 1633, at Saint Giles, Reading, Berkshire, England.


These early English records show the various spellings of the family name that existed, and that the Presnell family name is more than 400 years old.


In America, regardless how you find the Presnell name spelled, we are all most-likely related.  The literacy rate in America prior to about 1930 was terrible, and many of our Presnell cousins would simply sign their name with their mark ( X ).   Official documents therefore would have their names recorded however the record keep heard it and understood it.  For instance, my great-great grandfather, Jeremiah Presnell has his surname spelled 5 different ways on official documents, and he could read and write.

After 1066, the Norman barons introduced surnames into England, and the practice gradually spread. Initially, the identifying names were changed or dropped at will, but eventually they began to stick and to get passed on. So trades, nicknames, places of origin, and fathers' names became fixed surnames.  By 1400 most English families, and those from Lowland Scotland, had adopted the use of hereditary surnames.

Great Domesday; Catalogue reference: E 31/2Seal of William Duke of Normandy as King of England

The seal of William Duke of Normandy as King of England

In 1066 William Duke of Normany defeated the Anglo Saxon King, Harold II, at the Battle of Hastings and became the King of England. In 1085 England was again threatened with invasion, this time from Denmark. William had to pay for the mercenary army he hired to defend his kingdom. To do this he needed to know what financial and military resources were available to him.


At Christmas 1085 he commissioned a survey to discover the resources and taxable values of all the boroughs and manors in England. He wanted to discover who owned what, how much it was worth and how much was owed to him as King in tax, rents, and military service. A reassessment of the tax known as the geld took place at about the same time as Domesday and still survives for the south west. But Domesday is much more than just a tax record. It also records which manors belonged to which estates and gives the identities of the King’s tenants –in-Chief who owed him military service in the form of Knights to fight in his army. The King was essentially interested in tracing, recording and recovering his royal rights and revenues which he wished to maximize. It was also in the interests of his chief barons to co-operate in the survey since it set on permanent record the tenurial gains they had made since 1066.