There are two places called Elwell in England, one in Dorset, the other in Devon. Both it would seem have provided origination for this surname, although more usually from Devon. The name according to the late Mr Eilert Ekwall, the well known authority on British place names, means 'the wishing well' from the elements 'hael' (omen) and 'waella' - a spring. Certainly from the beginning of history 'wells' have been endowed with magical powers, so there does not seem to be any reason why this surname should not continue the tradition. Most holders of locational surnames derived them as a result of leaving their original homes for whatever reason, and travelling to another place - often London. Here they would take (or be given) as identification the name of their former village. This system in itself also lead to 'sounds like' surnames, but 'Elwell' seems to have retained its correct form. Examples of the surname recording include Jone Illwell who married John Dawson at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on February 14th 1613, and Rebecca Elwell, who married Richard Davis at All Hallows, London Wall, on December 30th 1679, in the reign of Charles 11, the Merry Monarch. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Joanne Ellwell, which was dated August 12th 1571, who was christened at Colyton, Devon, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as 'Good Queen Bess', 1558 - 1603. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.