Notes on the Mizell Name

It is impossible to know for certain what this name actually was.  The original immigrant, Luke Mizell, could not write his own name, nor could his elder son Lawrence Mizell.   The spelling of the name in the early Virginia records is therefore whatever seemed most appropriate to the clerk recording each particular record.   Combine that with the fact that Luke Mizell immigrated at a time when the spelling of one’s surname was still treated somewhat casually even by the literate.

The result is that we find the name in a variety of  forms.  For the first several decades it was recorded predominantly as Mizle and variants  like Misle and Mizell.   Fifty years after Luke Mizell immigrated, the “i” was beginning to be replaced by “e” and “ea”  to produce Meazle and variants (Meazle, Measle, Measell), though the Mizle version also continued to be used.  (The uses of  “s” versus “z” are probably not significant.  Those two lower-case letters are so similar to one another in old script that they are very difficult to differentiate and often it’s just a guess as to which was intended.)

Luke Mizell, Jr. evidently learned to write his own name as a result of his apprenticeship to a cooper named John King.  Since his own parents didn’t know how to spell the name, he used a spelling that John King (or whoever taught him to write) favored.  He signed his name a total of eight times, spelling it each time as Meazle.

The Mizell version doesn’t seem to have become the preferred spelling until a generation or two later.  The early North Carolina Mizells were in the same boat as Luke Jr. – learning to spell their names from persons outside the family.  The “original” name, whether  Mizle or Measle, is impossible to determine for certain.  However, it was obviously English – both mizle and measle were common English words.

In the late 19th century, two and a half centuries after Luke Mizell’s immigration, a descendant wrote of a family legend that three Huguenot brothers from France (perhaps using the name Moselle) immigrated to North Carolina.  This may have seemed plausible at the time, but it ignores the first hundred years of the family in America.  With the advantage having seen the Virginia records, we now know that this legend is purely fanciful.  The name was certainly not any variation of “Moselle”.  There were no brothers, only the original Luke.  And he could not possibly have been a French Huguenot.  Luke Mizell’s immigration by 1635 predates by more than a generation the earliest known Huguenot migration to America.  And we know that Luke had to have been English to buy land, serve on juries, and enjoy other privileges reserved for English citizens in 17th century Virginia.  (Citizenship at the time was conferred on residents only by an act of the Council, and there is no entry in those acts for any name resembling Luke Mizell.)  His settlement literally next door to an Anglican church, and the relationship with the local minister, also argues against any other religion.  In short, there is absolutely no evidence that he was other than a typical  English Anglican.