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About the study

I have been researching the Mundell surname since about 1995, starting with my own ancestors. My own line goes back to a John Mundell who maried at Northwood, Isle of Wight, in 1760. The sea surrounding the Isle of Wight confined many Mundells but a few did emigrate, leading to Mundells in my own line in North America, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand and particularly South Africa (where there are many!).

Variant names

Mundill, Mundle

Name origin

In the book 'The surnames of Scotland - Their origin, meaning and history' by George F Black (first printed 1946, reprinted 1962, New York Public Library) it is claimed that the name Mundell is; 'From Norman de Magneville or de Mandeville 'of the great town', a place on Normandy.' This may refer to present-day Mondeville on the south-east edge of Caen though there are several other similar town names in Normandy. George Black suggested how the name morphed through Mundeville and then to Mundell (which became a relatively common name in Scotland).

I have collected many early examples of these names but of course written information is very sparse before parish records were kept. This makes it very difficult to demonstrate how the name Mandeville or Mundeville might have evolved into Mundell, especially in an era when very few people could write. Scribes recorded and spelled the name as it sounded. It might be possible for a person to be born with one surname spelling, married with another, and buried with yet another.

Historical occurrences of the name

Geoffrey de Mandeville was amongst the most powerful Norman barons in the south-east of England, with manors in eleven counties, as listed in the Domesday Book of 1086.

His descendant, another Geoffrey de Mandeville (who died 1144) became the first Earl of Essex in 1140. His violent life and death is detailed in the book 'Who's who in Medieval England' by C. Tyerman, published Shepheard - Walwyn, 1996.

Roger de Mandeville was a competitor for the crown of Scotland in 1291.

Robert A Mundell of USA was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1999.

Name frequency

The 1881 Census shows that in Britain there were 419 people with the surname Mundell, 24 as Mundill, 65 as Mundle and 5 as Mundle. According to a One-Name Studies database there were some 612 living Mundells in England and Wales as of September 2002. This is only 0.0011% of the population, making it the 9,692th most frequent surname there.

Distribution of the name

In 1881 the most populous counties for Mundell were Lanarkshire (72 entries), Dumfriesshire (67), Durham (39) and Isle of Wight (36). However the most densely populated county for the Mundell name was Dumfriesshire with 104 entries per 100,000, followed by the Isle of Wight with 48 per 100,000.


I have made quite a detailed study of the naval career of my four-times great-grandfather, John Mundell, who was in the navy in the 1760's and served on seven different ships. John eventually became the gunner in charge of all the canons on the ship Aetna during the Seven Years War with France, fighting in the Mediterranean and off the coast of Canada. The captain's logs show that he was often drunk, and he was eventually court-martialled for insulting an officer. He was demoted to Able Seaman, but a few months later he jumped ship and returned to his wife when his ship moored at the Isle of Wight. Remarkably although he deserted, he was sent his back pay.

My data on my own personal line from the Isle of Wight and the descendants of all those that emigrated or left from there is quite extensive (though newly digitised sources of information keep becoming available, so the task can never be complete).

However, my data on Mundells from the north of England and especially Scotland is much more sparse, and much there needs to be done.