The original source for the following information is from the old website www.marvelcreations.com/marvel1.html and was notated as “Written material provided by Bettye Wheat of Fairfield, Illinois”. (Unfortunately the website is no longer on the web at this address.)
“Evolution of the Name Marvel”
The pride of ancestry seems to be innate in nearly everyone, and there are very few who claim indifference to the origin of their family and its name. It has been asserted that “He who cares nothing about his ancestors will rarely achieve anything worthy of being remembered by his descendants.” The knowledge of the origin of our family name brings to us a generous enthusiasm and a harmless vanity created by the fact of its antiquity. The family name, MARVEL, is not the result of any scientifically created system of nomenclature, but the result of an adoption of a place-name by the first man who bore it.
When the gallant Robert de Merveille left his native hamlet in France, to pursue fame and adventure with William the Conqueror, in the eleventh century, he became the progenitor of a family who for nine hundred years has borne his name.
The family name, Merveille, takes its origin from a town in what is today a part of France, though in the middle ages when surnames were in the process of formation, it was a part of maritime Flanders. This name was first applied to Robert because his friends found it a convenient label to distinguish him from others bearing the same name. No more natural method of referring to the man of alien birth could have arisen to designate him from others than this custom of attaching the name of the locality from whence he came. Thus, Robert became the bearer of the name of his native town, Merveille. (According to Bardsley in his “English and Welsh Surnames,” the name Marvel, or Marvellis, a nickname meaning “the marvel”. Medieval English, Mervaile; French Mereveille; THE WONDER)
This peaceful French village, with its quaint old stone houses, is situated in the valley of the river Lys. It was the scene of tragic conflict during World War I when the Allied and German Armies fought in the last great battle for military control of the French seaports along the English Channel. The spelling of the name of this town, Merveille, has been modernized to the form of Merville.
The early form of the name Merveille was retained for a period of two centuries or more in England, in which the Norman Conquerors spoke only French, the language they brought across the Channel with them. The Anglo-Saxon language was spoken by the conquered population. The nobility was almost without exception of the former race. Hence, in the castles only the French language was spoken, and naturally, the French forms of names prevailed. Robert of Merveille was written Robert de Merveille since “de” is the French word meaning ‘of’.
Later, due to the political severance of Normandy from England, there was an amalgamation of language that was basically Anglo-Saxon, and from which modern English has developed. During this period “de” was dropped from its former usage in family names. Thus de Merveille became Merveille.
Hugh de Morvill (some records give de Mervill) had his chief estate on Burgh-on-Sands, Cumberland. Apparently he lived until 1202 or 1203 when his English estate passed into the hands of his two daughters, Ada and Johanna.
The de Mervills and Morvils (another form of the same name) each had a coat of arms, which signifies that they were held in high repute. Some of them held worthy positions in the northern part of England. The town of Morville in Shropshire derived its name from a line in this family. The name Morvill became illustrious in Scotland where it finally became Marvell. It is reported as an extinct baronage.
The Morville name continued in France. Comte de Morville born in Paris in 1688, was a French diplomat. He became minister to Foreign Affairs in 1723 and was elected to the French Academy in the same year. He died in 1732.
In the village of Meldreth in Cambridgeshire, England, there is an old manor house called “The Marvells.” It was in Meldreth in 1586 that Reverent Andrew Marvell was born. He married Anne Pease, a member of an old and politically famous family of England. In the district of Holderness, Yorkshire, England, Rev. Andrew Marvell, was serving the parish of Winestead, when their son was born on Easter Day, March 31, 1621. He was given the name Andrew Marvel, the same as his father. He was educated at Trinity College in Cambridge and became secretary to John Milton, the poet. In 1660 he was elected to Parliament from Hull, which parish he represented honorably until his death on August 16, 1678. He was well known for his writing ability, and was called the “Poet of Gardens” because of his intense admiration of flowers.
The name of William Marvel is recorded in 1702 on the baptismal roll of St. James Clerkenwell, a district on the north side of London. In 1724, the marriage of Richard Marvel and Elizabeth Walford is recorded at St. Mary Aldermary, London. These reports go to show that the spelling of the name, Marvel, was used two hundred years ago in the same way it is today. It is chiefly in Yorkshire that the surname exists in this form.
Perhaps no better conclusion can be offered to our readers than the following quotation:
“No virtuously disposed mind can look back upon a long line of truly venerable ancestors without feeling his motive to a virtuous life strengthened. He can scarcely help feeling that it is not for you to be the first to bring disgrace upon his lineage. It will, however, lead him to reflect that his posterity will also be looking back and comparing life with that of his progenitors.”
Click here for the Marvel Family in England
Click here for the John Marvell Family in America
Click here for the Family of Thomas Marvel Sr.