Blazons & Genealogy Notes

1) (Kent and London). Ar. a saltire engr. az. (another gu.). Crest—The same as Abell of Essex.
2) Sa. on a fesse, engr. between two roses palewise, arg. three trefoils slipped vert. Crest: In front of a dexter arm embowed in armour, the hand grasping a thunderbolt, a torch fessewise flred, all ppr. Motto: Ohne Bast Zum Ziel.

Origin, Meaning, Family History and Abel Coat of Arms and Family Crest

Surname Meaning, Origin, and Etymology
Abel is a surname with a great and interesting history, given that it means something different in two languages. Abel arrived in England thanks to the soldiers and pilgrims that returned to home after the Crusades to retake the Holy Land during the 12th century, and then it extended to Scotland. Abel comes from the Hebrew name “Hevel”, which means “breath or vigor” and according to some experts it can also mean “evanescence”. Abel was a very popular first name during the middle age in Europe, thanks to the biblical figure Abel, the son of Adam who was murdered by his own brother Cain. Many people believe that it became a surname after being used as a nickname for someone with a great tenderness or innocence, both qualities were features of Abel, the son of Adam. Abel is a surname that shares a lot of its history with the surname Able, both has the same meaning, “breath”, and became popular thanks to the same religious reason.

The surname counts on a different background history in Germany, where it is a patronymic name that comes from the Old German name Abel, which means “noble one” so the surname would mean something like “son of the noble one”. It is curious how in this territory, it doesn’t have any kind of connection with the Christian religion. It was very popular in the region of Swabia, in the southwest of Germany.

In England, the surname Abel can be found for the first time in the counties of Kent, Derbyshire, and Essex. While in Germany, it held its oldest seat in Wuerttemberg, where this family was a very prominent one in several social affairs and it made important alliances that contributed to the development of the feudal system in this country. One of the oldest records of the surname Abel belongs to William Abel in 1197, who can be found in the Pipe Rolls of Essex, England, during the reign of King Richard I, better known as “Lionheart” who was king from 1189 until 1199.

Spelling Variations
Abel is a surname that exposes perfectly the reasons that caused spelling variations in the last names of the middle age. During this period, the Old English didn’t count on the grammatical rules that it has today, so when it was introduced to the French of the Norman people, it didn’t have a guide to tell what was right and what was wrong with its writing. This led to scribes to write words according to their sound, and many of them wrote the surnames differently in the records.

Additionally, there were more factors, like the proper evolution of languages, wrong translations and the fact that some branches of families with the same surname, used to add suffixes and prefixes to their last name to be easily distinguished. Thanks to all of these reasons a single surname could have many ways of being written and in the case of Abel some of these spelling variations are Abell, Abel, Able, Habel, Abeel, Abelson, Abelle, Abele, Ablson, Ebelson, Abill, Abilson, Aball, Abeal, and Eblson. However, because Abel also have a German origin, it also have spelling variations in that language such as Aubeller, Abeles and Abeler.

Popularity & Geographic Distribution
Although Abel was a popular surname in the England of the middle age, it didn’t keep this behavior on the rest of world. According to the census of 2014, Abel holds the 3,070th position in the ranking of popularity of surnames and it has approximately 178,289 bearers. The country with the biggest amount of bearers of Abel is Nigeria, followed by Tanzania and the United States. The nation with the highest density of this surname is Vanuatu.

Early Bearers of the Surname
Some records that show old bearers of this surname, such as Thomas Abell, who can be found in the Subsidy Rolls of Yorkshire in 1301, in the rolls of the abbey of Kelso appear a Master Abel in 1235, Thomas Abel who was a burgess of Edinburgh in 1387, John Abel a singer from Scotland during the reign of King Charles II, another John Abel (1578-1675) an English carpenter and mason, and William Abel (1584-1655) an English vintner.

History, Genealogy, and Ancestry
There are my different families with the surname Abel and not all of them are connected, thanks to the fact that this is a surname that was given thanks to religious reasons, so many of the followers of the Christianity carry this last name. One family that have an excellent record of its genealogical tree is the one of Michael Abel, who was born on September 3, 1739, in Deidesheim, Germany. He was the son of Balthasar Abel and Anna Eva Hoffmaennin and got married to Anna Eva Oehlgass. Together, Michael and Anna Eva had a son, Johann Willhelm Abel on June 18, 1781, in Deidesheim, Pfalz, Bavaria.

Johann Willhelm Abel got married to Barbara Glaser, daughter of Joanem Glaser and Annam Mariam Beltz, on February 1, 1803. From this marriage would be born eight children, they were Georgius Josephus Abel, Anna Maria Abel, Marsilius Abel, Barbara Abel, Regina Abel, Maria Eva Abel and Michael Abel. Johann Willhelm Abel died in Deidesheim, but the date is unknown.

Only two children of Joham Willhelm had offspring. The first was Anna Maria Abel was born on September 4, 1805, and got married to Phillip Heinrich Becker on January 12, 1832, and they had two daughters, Anna Catharina Becker and Anna Barbara Becker, then Anna Maria Abel died on January 19, 1876, in Missouri, United States. Then there was Marsilius Abel who was born on Mayo 29, 1808 and grew up to become a tailor. He got married to Johanna Muench on August 26, 1834 and together they had the following 4 children, George Abel who was born on March 1, 1835, Michael Abel who was born on December 4, 1838, Johannes Abel who was born on April 20, 1846, and Heinricus Abel who was born on November 30, 1850. After having his children, Marsilius Abel died on September 26, 1869, in Cincinnati, Ohio in the United States.

George Abel, the first child of Marsilius Abel also was a tailor and got married to Anna Marie Kirchgassner in 1855. Together they had 5 children, George Abel who was born on February 27, 1857, Marcellus Abel who was born on January 27, 1859, Johanna Abel who was born on February 10, 1860, Mary Abel who was born on December 6, 1862, and Matilda Abel who was born on February 26, 1864. Michael Abel, the second son of Marsilius Abel got married to Ernstine Alexander and they had seven children, they were Adolph M. Abel who was born on November of 1861, Bertha Abel who was born in 1864, Ida Abel who was born on August 16, 1867, Theresa M. Abel who was born on October 16, 1870, Hannah Abel who was born in 1872, Mark Moses Abel who was born in 1874 and William Abel who was born in 1877.

Johannes Abel, the following child of Marsilius Abel, got married to Mary Hortense on February 3, 1876 and they had eight children, Paul H. Abel who was born on June 13, 1877, Leon Charles Abel who was born on July 21, 1879, William G. Abel who was born in 1881, Marcella Theresa Abel who was June 19, 1884, Magdalene Frances Abel, who was born on November 11, 1887, Francis John Abel who was born on June 11, 1889, John Anton Abel who was born on June 11, 1890 and Mary Hortense Abel who was born on December 8, 1891. The record doesn’t show any child of Henricus Abel.

This line of the surname Abel would continue with Marcellus Abel, the second son of George Abel and with Adolph M. Abel, the first son of Michael Abel. Marcellus Abel got married to Emma Bach in 1883 and together they had four children, George C. Abel who was born on Jun 21, 1885, Clifford H. Abel who was born on December 20, 1890, Marcellus Richard Abel who was born on March 29, 1892, and Emma Abel who was born on January 31, 1897. From them, the only one in having offspring was Marcellus Richard Abel who got married to Clara Elizabeth Tanner on October of 1919 and they had two children, Donald Richard Abel who was born on September 3, 1919, and Marcellus Mar Abel who was born on October 29, 1921. Then, Marcellus Richard Abel died on October 2, 1980.

Donald Richard Abel grew up and got married to Rosalyn A. Weil and they had two children, Max Abel and Gretchen Abel. Marcellus Richard Abel got married to Ruth Helen Goebel, but they didn’t have children.

Adolph M. Abel got married to Matilda Lauman Abel on February 12, 1888, and together they had two children, Mitchel Abel who was born on January 27, 1889, and got married to Hortense A. Phillips on January 9, 1921, and Regina Abel who was born on December of 1895.

Early American and New World Settlers

After Cristopher Columbus arrived in America and spread the new in the old continent, many Europeans saw this new continent as an opportunity to begin a new life with new possibilities. They brought their surnames and when they had their children here, these last names started to being used in America. Some of the bearers of Abel that arrived in the United States during the 17th century were Robert Abel, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1630, Stoffel Jansen Abel who landed on Long Island in 1664 and Elizabeth Abel, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1694.

During the 18th century, more bearers of Abel came to America, such as Maria Abel, who arrived in New York during 1709, Johann Abel, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1732 and Joseph Abel who settled in Virginia in 1736. At the next century this movement of people didn’t stop, so more users of this last name arrived, like Archibald Abel who arrived in Philadelphia in 1813, Cristopher Abel who landed in the US in 1820, Johann Abel who arrived in New Orleans in 1843, Casper Abel who arrived in Baltimore in 1844 and Johan Abel who also settled in Baltimore but in 1848.

A Motto is a phrase used by a group of people to express an aspect of themselves. Families used these phrases to tell features like their code of conduct, their religion, to whom they were loyal or how they saw life. In the case of the surname Abel, there is a record of a motto that goes “Ohne Rast zum Ziel” which can be translated into English as “without resting to the goal”.

The only grantee we were able to find of this surname is John Abell of West Bergholt, Essex, England on April 16, 1573.

Some of the bearers of the surname Abel that have played an important role in different fields are Alan Abel (b. 1930) an American Actor, Clamor Heinrich Abel (1634-1696) a German Baroque composer, Annie Heloise Abel (1873-1947) a British historian, Friedrich Gottfried Abel (1714-1794) a German physician, Donald Abel (b. 1952) a politician from Canada, Iorwith Willbur Abel (1908-1987) an American Labor Leader, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Jennifer Abel (b. 1991) a Canadian diver who earned two gold Olympic medals and one bronze, John Jacob Abel (1857-1938) an American biochemist and pharmacologist, Clarke Abel (1780-1826) a British surgeon, naturalist and Carl Abel (1837-1906) a philologist from Germany, Elie Abel (1921-2004) a Canadian-American journalist and author, Leighton Abel (1900-1975) an American businessman and politician, Walter Abel (1898-1987) an American actor, Wolfgang Abel (1905-1997) an anthropologist from Germany, Hazael Abel (1888-1966) an American politician and Tom Abel (b. 1970) a German astrophysicist.

Abel Coat of Arms Meaning

The three main devices (symbols) in the Abel blazon are the saltire, sword and arm in armour. The two main tinctures (colors) are azure and argent.

Azure is the heraldic colour blue, usually quite a deep, dark shade of the colour (there is a lighter blue that sometimes occurs, known as celestial azure). If colour printing is not available then it can be represented by closely spaced horizontal lines in a scheme known as “hatching” 1. The word is thought to originate from the Arabic lazura and it represents the colour of the eastern sky. It is also said to be the colour associated by the Catholic Church with the Virgin Mary and hence of particular significance 2.

Argent is the heraldic metal Silver and is usually shown as very pure white. It is also known more poetically as pearl, moon (or luna) 3. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 4.

The saltire is one the major ordinaries, large charges that occupy the whole of the field 5. Arguably one of the best uses of this device is that of the St. Andrews Cross, a white saltire on a blue background found on the Scottish flag. The saltire is obviously closely related to the Cross, and Wade in his work on Heraldic Symbology suggests additionally that it alludes to “Resolution”, whilst Guillim, an even more ancient writer, somewhat fancifully argues that it is awarded to those who have succesfully scaled the walls of towns! 6

Given the martial nature of the origins of Heraldry, in the identification of knights and men-at-arms it can come as no surprise that mediaeval weaponry of all types are frequently to be found in a coat of arms 7. Indeed, the sheer variety of different swords 8 can be bewildering and expaining the difference between a scimitar and a falchion is perhaps best left to the expert! If a charge is described just as a simple sword then it will have a straight blade and cross handle, that may be of a different colour, and, unless specified, points upwards. Wade, quoting the earlier writer Guillim, signifies the use of the sword as representing “Government and Justice”.

The Arm appears frequently in the crest of a coat of arms, often armoured and described in some detail as to its appearance and attitude. 9 It can also appear on the shield itself as a charge. The arm itself is said to signify a “laboorious and industrious person” 10, whilst the arm in armour may denote “one fitted for performance of high enterprise” 11

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  • 1 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 26
  • 2 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P150
  • 3 Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53
  • 4 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P11
  • 5 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Saltire
  • 6 A Display of Heraldry, J. Guillim, Blome, London, 1679, P63
  • 7 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 89
  • 8 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P302
  • 9 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:arm
  • 10 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P92
  • 11 A Display of Heraldry, J. Guillim, Blome, London, 1679, P184