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2,396 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

The TOLL One-Name Study commenced in 1986 and was Registered with the Guild in 1988.

I started collecting all references when tracing my own ancestry ground to a halt. I followed Sherlock Holmes' technique of collecting all the evidence, eliminating the impossible, and what is left, however unlikely, must be correct. It transpired that my ancestors, who had been Londoners 'for hundreds of years', had migrated from Bedfordshire to London (via Hertfordshire) during the period 1795 to 1855.

Meanwhile, it became apparent that the other TOLLs I had collected were just as interesting as mine - sometimes more so.

Variant names

The primary variant of TOLL is TOLE, although in Devon TOLE appears to be a distinct surname.

Similarly TOLLE is a distinct European name, but is often found as a variant of TOLL in early English Records.

It has recently become apparent that TOUL(L)(E) may also be a variant, although its use seems to be quite localised. Further work needs to be undertaken on other TOUL(L)(E) families to determine whether it is a name in its own right.

At present, TOEL & TOAL do not appear to be variants and are not included in this study.

Name origin

The TOLL/TOLE surname appears to originate in several locations independently, possibly for differing reasons.

Toll 1881

There are  references in the Domesday Book to TOL & TOLI, and also to THOL, THOLE & THOLI. For those who are interested, precise references can befound in Domesday Names, by Keats-Rohan and Thornton. Some of the references refer to Danes who held land prior to 1066.

According to PH Reaney (A Dictionary of British Surnames), the earliest references to TOLL are:

  • William filius TOLE, 1130 (Pipe Rolls, Essex)
  • TOLLE le Grangier, 1218 (Assize Rolls, Lincs)
  • Nicholas, Richard TOLLE 1275 RH (W), 1296 (Subsidy Rolls, Sussex)
  • Robert ate TOLLE, Roger TOLLE 1327 (Subsidy Rolls, Worcs)
  • Hugh, Peter TOLE, MinAcctCo, 1327 (Subsidy Rolls, Essex)

Hanks & Hodges do not list TOLL or TOLLE. For TOLE they say 'see TOWLE'. Under TOWLE, they list TOW(E)LL; TOLE and TOLL as variants. Strangely they give the origin of TOWLE as a Notts name from the Middle English given name of TOLL!, Old English TOLL, or Old Norse TOLI, the latter being derived as a short FORM of THORLIEFR.

Basil Cottle (in the Penguin Dictionary of Surnames) gives TOLL as 'found recently in Hants, and probably local name 'copse, clump of Trees'. ?.of unknown origin, but Guppy counted it only in Cornwall'. The 'found recently in Hants' is believed to be a reference to the TOLL family in Burkes Landed Gentry. The 'copse, clump of Trees' has been found in an earlier book on names in the West Midlands, and links it to Evesham, Worcs, as a local dialect word, which gave rise to TOLLEY.

The Guinness book of Names also refers to Guppy's work Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, and confirms TOLL as unique to Cornwall - by Guppy's definition (from the wills of farmers, who he believed to be the 'most stay-at-home class in the country'). Interestingly, Guppy gives FOLL as unique to Bedfordshire. Many of the records I've looked at could actually be a mis-reading of TOLL.

The Vale of the Vikings, by David Simpson, suggests that Tollesby, a suburb of Middlesborough, belonged to a Viking called TOLL.

My own research indicates the name has evolved independently in several locations.

There is certainly a Cornish source - from TOLL farm near Gunwalloe. The Cornish word 'tol' means hole or hollow, and TOLL Farm is (or was) in a hollow formed by the surrounding hills. The earliest references are 1495, and it was still on the map in 1950. By the 1980s it had gone from the map and only the ruins remained.

It is possible that the Cornish line is the source of the Devon families, but to date I have found no evidence to support or refute this. Nor have I found any other source of the name in Devon. It is quite widespread in the 1600s.

My own line is from Bedfordshire - back to the 1500s. There are indications that earlier generations may have been at Irechester in Northamptonshire. Not far from there, early TOWELLs are found in Rutland, leading me to suspect it may be a locative name derived from TOLETHORPE Manor in Rutland. The VCH for Rutland also mentions a tithing of 'TOLCESTRE' which appears to be associated with Oakham.

The final major family is in Norfolk. I have found very early references to TOLLs in the transcripts of Norwich deeds - as early as 1290. No specific source of the name has been located, but it is still the county with the highest count of TOLLs.

Historical occurrences of the name

Very few TOLLs have led prominent lives.

The only confirmed grant of arms I can locate is that to Christopher TOLL of the manor of Chaddell Hanger (near Lamerton) in Devon in the mid 1500s.

I know very little about him he seems to have had a brother John who lived in Cirencester, but searching Cirencester records has not added anything significant - yet.

We later see the same arms being used by the TOLL family of Perridge House, just outside Exeter. I have traced that line back to Edmond TOLL(E) and Katherine, who married about 1629 and had several of their children baptised in Exeter Cathedral. One of their sons, Charles, rose through the ranks of the Royal Household, the family later being recorded as landed gentry. However, I can find no link between Edmond and Christopher.

Thomas TOLL, Mayor of King's Lynn in 1639, 1646 & 1655 claimed the same arms as the family above. He was the MP for King's Lynn during the Long Parliament. I have traced that family back to Henry TOLL of Fakenham & Wells (Norfolk), who died in 1592. I can find no link to Christopher TOLL.

One of Henry's sons, William TOLL, rose to prominence when he became Rector of Wells. He claimed the tithing of all the fish caught in Icelandic waters. There was a dispute, a court case, and he won! Apparently the tithing had been granted by Elizabeth 1, but I have yet to determine why?

Another family claiming the same arms is the TOLLs of Tottenham High Cross. Recent research indicates that they were descended from the TALL family of Surrey, and appear to have no genealogical connection to the TOLLs at all. The line disappeared between 1750 and 1800. It is possible they reverted to TALL.

Name frequency

The frequency of the TOLL surname in England, Scotland & Wales in 1881 was about 1 in 50,000. TOLE was somewhat rarer.

Distribution of the name

The most frequent occurrences in the UK in 1881 were in Devon, Cornwall, Bedford & Norfolk, as would be expected from the name's historical distribution. See the map at the top of this page, which was generated from Archer Software's 'Surname Atlas' (double click the map for a better image).

By 2000 the families had migrated considerably, and the name is virtually extinct in Cornwall and Bedford. Some families had moved within the UK, others to the new world. Typical of these were Cornish miners and Bedfordshire carpenters.

The TOLL surname also originates independently in Europe - mainly Scandinavia, Germany & Holland. Many of these migrated to the USA along with those from the UK. This accounts (in part) for the disproportionate numbers of TOLLs/TOLEs in the USA (about 1200 in the USA phonebook, compared with 200 in GB)

Emigrants to Australia & New Zealand are mostly of UK origin - I only know of one German family.

At least one UK family emigrated to South Africa, but I would suspect that there could be many Dutch TOLLs there too.


I have reconstructed pedigrees for the following families:Cornwall
  • Toll of Cury, Gunwalloe, St Keverne, Germoe & Crowan (& USA & Australia)
  • Toll of Launceston
  • Toll of Warrleggan, St Neot, Luxulan (& Tasmania)
  • Toll of Menheniot (Liskeard)
  • Toll of St Germans
  • Toll of Cornwall & Channel Isles (Guernsey & Jersey)
  • Toll of WerringtonDevon
  • Toll of Perridge House, Ide (& Odiham & Kingsclere, Hants)
  • Toll of Newton Abbott (& Bicklington)
  • Toll of Plymouth & London
  • Toll/Braund of Broadwoodwidger & Lifton
  • Toll of Lamerton
  • Toll of Bere Ferrers (& Arkansas, Illinois, New Zealand, Australia, RSA)
  • Toll of Devon & Channel Isles (Guernsey & Jersey)
  • Tole of Christow, Exeter (& Cheshire & Lancs)


  • Toll/Tole of Pavenham & Wilstead (& Bucks, Herts, London, Yorks, Australia)
  • Toll/Tole of Biggleswade
  • Toll(e)/Tolde/Towle of Northants


  • Toll of Aldesgate
  • Toll/Tall of Kensington, Tottenham & Mitcham (Surrey)


  • Toll of Fakenham, King's Lynn & Norwich
  • Toll of South Creake (& Australia)
  • Toll of Great Massingham
  • Toll of Colkirk & Gt Ryburgh
  • Toll of Freebridge Lynn (King's Lynn, Docking, Harpley, Rougham, Rudham)
  • Toll of South Wootton


  • Toll of Bradford (& Bristol)


  • Toll of Gilgandra

I have extracted the relevant entries from:

  • IGI & VRI.
  • All the TOLL England & Wales BMD index entries to 2000.
  • All the TOLE England & Wales BMD index entries 1895 to 2000.
  • All the post 1858 English TOLL/E probate index entries to 2000.
  • Copies of most of the post 1858 wills & admons to 1970.
  • Most of the pre-1858 English TOLL/E probate index entries.
  • Copies (or extracts) of most of the pre 1858 wills & admons.
  • Most of the Scottish BMDs to 1900.
  • All the Australian BMD index entries to 1900 (and beyond in some states).
  • A large collection of Census Index entries from UK (1841-1861 partial, 1871-1901 complete)
  • A large collection of Census Index entries from US (1790 - 1930).
  • Some census index entries for Canada (incomplete)
  • I have most of the BMD entries for the Channel Isles.
  • I have most of the Census Index (1851, 1871-1901) entries for the Channel Isles.

I have extracted miscellaneous information from the following Repositories:

  • The National Archives (PRO)
  • Family Records Centre
  • British Library (Manuscripts)
  • Society of Genealogists Library
  • Borthwick Institute, York
  • Bedford CRO & Library
  • Cornwall CRO, Libraries, FHS Library
  • Devon CROs, Exeter Local Studies Library, FHS Library
  • Norfolk CRO, Norwich Library, FHS Library
  • Bristol Central Library
  • Crawley LDS Library
  • Derbyshire CRO & Libraries
  • Hampshire CRO
  • Hertfordshire CRO
  • Lambeth Archives (Minet Library)
  • Lincolnshire CRO & Libraries
  • London Metropolitan Archives
  • Northampton CRO
  • Scilly Isles Museum & Library
  • Surrey Libraries
  • Sussex Libraries & FHG Library
  • Westminster RO
  • Yorks Repositories: Northallerton, Leeds, York, & FHS Libraries
  • Yorkshire Deeds Repository (Wakefield)
  • National Archives of Scotland
  • GRO Scotland
  • Library of Congress
  • Paris (USA) LDS Library
  • South Australia State Archives
  • Victoria State Archives & Libraries

Please contact me before undertaking any new TOLL/TOLE research; for further infomation; or if you would like to assist in the study. New Data is always very welcome.


I have been running a TOLL & Variant DNA Project since early 2006.
Four candidates have been tested so far:
  • a representative of the TOLL of Bere Ferrers, Devon, family
  • a representative of a Devon/Channel Isles TOLL family
  • two representatives of the Bedfordshire TOLL family.
Th 37 Marker Results indicate that only 2 of the tested individuals are closely related - those with Bedfordshire ancestry. I'm advised that any common ancestor for the others would pre-date surnames - i.e. before 1200.
I would very much like to hear from other male TOLLs/TOLEs who wish to utilise this method to determine where their TOLL ancestors originate. As this technique relies on the Y Chromosome, it is not possible to do similar checks for the ladies. Sorry.


I can also be contacted by Skype, see for further information.