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2,390 study surnames with us
and a further 6,077 variant names.

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About the study

This ONS began as a quest to determine the origins of my unusual surname. With an oral tradition that our Canadian family had long established roots in Cornwall England, I aspired to identify my paternal pedigree. Over the past 25 years, I have been successful in not only establishing my lineage from 1500 to the present but also identifying the many surname variants and the medieval origins of the family surname.

In 2012, I created the Sambells Family Genealogy website. It was designed to provide a venue where family historians could share our common history. It includes an overview of my research to date, an explanation of the origins of the surname and a repository for stories and biographies of family members.

In Sept. 2016, I published the first volume of the Sambells Family History: Origins and Lineage 1000 - 1850". Copies of this book will be available in several libraries throughout Cornwall, Devon, Oxfordshire and London England, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Ontario Canada.

Variant names

Documented variants of the surname from 1000 AD include de St Pol, de Sancto Paulo, de la Pol, del Pol, Senpol, Sempol, Seynpol and Symple up to the late 1200's. Subsequent variations during the era of the Great Vowel Change of the 1300's witnessed descendants carrying the surname le Senpol, le Sympelle, Symple, Senple, Semple, and since the late 1400's as Samble, Sambles, Sambell and Sambells. Several deviant spellings of these names also occur. In some places such as northern Nottinghamshire where the surname St Paul remains in close association with lands held by the earliest de Sancto Paulo families. There are close to fifty documented spelling variant and deviants of the surname. Evolution of the surname was not linear as many of these variant spellings remain throughout England today.

Name origin

During the late 1100s in England, there were several cases when the use of the Latin de Sancto Paulo surname was used in reference to expatriate members of the French "de St Pol" family from St Pol-sur-Ternoise in northeastern France. The small fiefdom of St Pol was acquired by the Candavene family as a buffer territory between the powerful medieval hause de Bologne and hause de Flanders at the end of the first millenium. This ruling family held the title of Counts de St Pol from about 1000 AD to 1200 AD and adopted the Latin form of the name when a representative contingent of four family members arrived in England in support of the accession of Henry Plantagenet (Henry II) to the throne of England in 1154. It is from the English descendants of these four men that the surname Sambells has evolved.

Historical occurrences of the name

The ancient Pipe Roll record of Henry II reveal that brothers Anselme, Osbertus, Hugues and his son Robert de Sancto Paulo were all granted lands in many eastern shires of England. Hugh was one of the several chamberlains to Henry II and Robert was the king's tailor. Descendants of these knights gradually anglicized their surname to spellings nearer to English sounds. Yet throughout the various shires there was not a standard pronunciation. Consequently, over the centuries the name de Sancto Paulo evolved into a surprising array of variations. For example, in the southwest counties of Cornwall and Devon, the hardening of the pronunciation of the letter "p" to "b" by the late 1500s produced spellings including Samble/s and Sambell/s.

Name frequency

Quantitative frequency investigations of this surname have not been completed.

Distribution of the name

Global distribution frequency investigations of this surname have not been completed. However, current research and website inquiries have found that the Sambells/Sambell surname occurs in England, Canada, United States, Australia, and New Zealand.


Limited DNA testing has been done. Two different branches in Ontario Canada, Sambell and Sambells have been tested and show definitive links over a dozen generations ago. A strong association also occurs between a branch of the Boone family in the USA and the Sambells of Ontario and Cornwall England.