Because people make errors in spelling, because slight differences in pronunciation can cause clerks to record a spoken surname in different ways, and because people sometimes deliberately change the spelling of a surname, it is unwise and misleading to conclude that all persons with the surname Maule are members of the Maule family, that all members of the Maule family spell their surname as Maule, or that there necessarily is one Maule family. For centuries, Maule genealogists have debated and puzzled over the relationships, if any, among the families de Maule, de Mauley, and de Mauleon, in addition to considering several dozen other variants of the name Maule. Some researchers, including myself in my younger days as a genealogical novitiate, simply separated persons surnamed Maule from those not surnamed Maule, without realizing that in doing so they (and I) were contributing to the confusion.

     What follows is a brief discussion of the variant spellings of Maule and similar families.

The Maule Variants


     The surname Maule is said to derive from the town of Maule, France, which is approximately 40 miles to the west-south-west of the center of Paris. This conclusion certainly is true, at least for some people, because the historical record demonstrates that Pierre I le Riche de Paris acquired the designation "de Maule" when he was granted the Barony of Maule and that the "de Maule" name was used by his descendants. Eventually, as was the case with many, but not all, Norman and French surnames beginning with de, the de was dropped and the surname became Maule.

     The town of Mauleon in France, and the town of Mauleon in Basque Territory, have contributed the surname Maule in ways that demand close attention. There is evidence that the surname "de Mauleon" is a variant spelling and pronunciation of the surname "de Mauley." Records demonstrate that individuals were described with either surname depending on the origins, language, and location of the writer. The name "de Mauley" corrupted into "de Maule" and then "Maule" as evidenced by the use of de Mauley arms by the Maule families of Essex and Stoke-Nayland in England, though the surname "Mawle" was often used in these families. The town of Mauleon in Basque Territory, which takes its name from a person name de Mauleon who was charged by King John of England with establishing southern defenses for Aquitaine, is also spelled Maule. It is likely that individuals from, or connected with, this town were designated as "de Mauleon" and as "de Maule." The aliasing of Mauleon with Maule suggests that there is some connection among all three towns, though research on that question is underway and far from complete.

     There is at least one other town called Maule. It is in Belgium. Little is known about this town, and although several years ago I found some information on the Internet concerning it, I no longer can locate that web page. Whether this town came by its name independently or on account of activity by someone named Maule is an unanswered question. See the discussion of the town Mol in Belgium under the surname variant Moll. There also is a village in France called Maulette, approximately 30 miles from Maule. Literally, the name means "little Maule" but no connection with Maule has yet been established. The village's coat of arms contains three rosettes, much as the de Mauley arms came to bear three dolphins, three wyverns, or three of something. In ancient times the town was called "Maulia le Chamberil," which is a most interesting fact considering that, as described below, Maulia was one of the Latin spellings of Maule. Additional research is required.

     In Chile there is a town, a region, and a river each called Maule. The name appears on wine bottled in the area. Despite legends that the reason for the name's appearance in Chile is to honor a liberator named Jaime Maule, the truth is that no such liberator existed and the name is a phonetic spelling of a native American word used to describe the region. It does not appear that any individual or family in this area assumed the name as a surname.

     Not everyone with the surname Maule traces their surname back to the town of Maule, France (or to Mauleon). Some members of various Maul families, which originate in Germany, changed their surname to Maule during World War One because they considered having a German surname to be unpatriotic and inconvenient. Emigrants from various countries ended up with a surname spelled Maule when immigration officials could not understand the pronunciation of a name. There also is some belief that some individuals from families with surnames such as Mow, Mol, and Molle changed the spelling to Maule, or had the spellings changed for them. For example, see the discussion of the spelling variation of the surname Molle.

     It remains unclear whether the families surnamed Maule whose origins are in Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic derive their surnames from the town of Maule (or Mauleon). Stories passed down from parent to child in these families suggest that there is, in fact, a French origin. The answers to these questions await the opportunity to access records not yet studied.

     Though it is established that some individuals and families derived a surname from the town of Maule, France, the next question involves the origins of the word used to describe the town. According to an etymologist with whom I was in contact during the late 1979s, the term "Maule" appears to be a Frankish shorthand for a Gallo-Roman phrase meaning "hill where a temple is for worshiping a god". He analyzed the word in terms of M, AU, and LE. His letter is written in highly technical French, and someday I will try to translate it and post it.

     Lastly, it should be noted that because of poor penmanship and language dialects individuals surnamed Maule often were recorded as having a surnamed spelled in some other way. The specific variations are noted below. It is important to remember that often an individual whose name is spelled Maul, Mall, Maull, or in some other way appears in the same records as Maule, and that individuals unquestionably connected as father and child have their names spelled differently.


     This variation occurs in two contexts. There are German families surnamed Maul, and members of these families exist not only in Germany but in other countries. Some, as noted above, have changed the spelling of the name to Maule.

     The spelling "Maul" also appears in the records because the person writing the name spelled what he or she heard. At least by the fifteenth century the final e no longer was sounded, and thus "Maul" represents the sound of the present-day pronunciation of "Maule." It is highly probable that a millenium ago, when the word "Maule" was evolving as part of the proto-surname designation "de Maule," its pronunciation represented the Latin language principle that every vowel deserves its sound. In such a case, it is much easier to understand how Maule as spelled in proto-French, Mauleon in French, and Mauley in English are all the same name.

     When the name of a person living in England, Wales, or Scotland before the twentieth century is spelled as Maul, the supposition is that the name should be spelled Maule. Often it is spelled Maule in other records relating to the same person.

     See also the discussion of the spelling variation of the surname Molle.

Maüle (Maeule)

     The name Maüle (with an umlaut over the u) appears in parts of Germany and in the Glueckstal colonies settled by Germans during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in south Russia. When it was not possible to typeset the umlaut over the u, the letters e and u were used in its place. That this name is derived from a German surname is undeniable. Presumably it is a variation of the German Maul surname, or perhaps of the Maule surname found in Germany which has its roots in France.


     Recent research establishes that this surname is the result of sloppy handwriting. If the "e" at the end of Maule is written in too large of a loop, it appears as a lower case l. As such, the name Maule became Maull. This happened often, but it appears that only in the case of the Maull family of Delaware did the spelling take hold and become established as the family name.

     According to Commissary Maule's History of the family in the Dalhousie Muniments (GD 45/26/53), written in 1610, the Maull spelling is on account of a "corruption of the last letter."


     This variation, apparently no longer in use, was rare even when it was in use. It could reflect sloppy handwriting. It could reflect an attempt to preserve the presumed two-syllable pronunciation of centuries ago, with the second l emphasizing the need to sound the e.


     This spelling, which also reflects the way in which the name was pronounced by the time it appears in the records, still is in use. At one time its use was frequent. It appears among those considered to be the descendants of the de Mauley family. It also appears in London and several other places during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, supporting the unproven hypothesis that considering the proximity of these other places to London, Essex, and Stoke Nayland, these individuals were closely related. It also was used among members of the Banbury Maule family, whose surnamed was spelled inconsistently throughout the centuries.


     A variant no longer in use, it appeared infrequently. Perhaps it was a spelling that bridged Mauley and Mawle.


     This, too, is a spelling that no longer seems to be in use. When in use, this variant appears almost exclusively in Scotland. The fact that this variant (and others like it) don't appear until the sixteenth century supports the hypothesis that the name was pronounced in two syllables until French pronunciation faded from the English language.


     This variant, which has a two-syllable pronunciation, presumably derives from the de Mauley surname. It might, however, derive from the Maule surname, and could have received its spelling as an attempt to preserve what is believed to have been the original two-syllable pronunciation of that name. Individuals and families named Mawley are found in various places to this day.


     This variation appears to be another instance of pronunciation taking precedence over accuracy in spelling. It also appears to be a surname acquired by emigrants whose name could not be recorded properly by immigration officials. By 1850 its appearance in English and Scottish records had pretty much evaporated.


     This variation, too, no longer appears to be in use. Perhaps it, too, represents a transition spelling, developed when the name still had its two-syllable pronunciation. When in use, its frequency of appearance was limited. There are indications that this spelling was used in the nineteenth century to represent members of the Mal family (see below), at least one of whom had the surname spelled as Maule.


     This variation, no longer in use as a Maule surname variation, represents how the name Maule was pronounced in some parts of Scotland at some times after it lost its presumed second syllable. When used for members of the Maule family, it was a rare spelling of the name.

     There also are, as explained by a Maw family researcher, many Maw families because Maw was a locally common name in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. It appears that there is no connection between the Maw and Maule families, but until the records of the tenth through twelfth centuries are examined more closely and supplemented, the question remains open.


     This variation, no longer in use as a Maule surname variant, represents how the name Maule was pronounced in some parts of Scotland at some times after it lost its presumed second syllable. When it use, it was a very rare spelling of the name.

     There is a family with origins in Germany that is surnamed Mow, the name having been changed from Mou. No research has yet been done by Maule genealogists on the Mou family.


     This spelling, which appears only a few times in ancient records, might simply represent sloppy handwriting that turned the lower case l into a lower case e and a lower case e into a lower case l on account of loops of the wrong size being formed. There is a German family of the name Mauel, which could be a variation of Maul or Maule in that country.


     The name is spelled in this manner in a record found in the Roger Dodsworth Collection (among the manuscripts of the Bodleian Library) showing the grant of land by Henry, son of the King of Scotland and Count of Northumberland, to to Roberti de Maaul.


     The best guess is that this rarely seen variation results from the same handwritten loop formation sloppiness that converted Maule into Mauel. In this instance, it converts Mawle into Mawel.


     This variation could simply be an attempt to record a possessive form of the name Mawle. It appears only once, and thus could also be the result of sloppy handwriting.


     Occasionally seen in Scottish records as a surname, presumably indicating an individual belonging to the Maule family, this spelling could be the result of sloppy handwriting. For example, Sir Patrick Maule's name is spelled Mauld, in records such as this one. It could, however, be intended to record the name of a person from the Scottish village of Mauld. That village has had its name spelled Maule (in 1416), Mald (1599), Mauld (1665, 1784), Mailt (1727), Mault (1764), and Maulet (1795), the last being a strange reminder of the town of Maulette in France. There is a discussion of this word here. The use of the name as a first name, such as this one complicates attempts to determine the root of this word's use as a surname, such as in this instance.


     A surname of a nineteenth century family with origins in Belgium, at least one individual in this family has had his surname spelled Maule. Whether the name has some connection with the village of Maule in Belgium is unclear. The name is also found in the records as Malle.


     This surname, the correct pronunciation of which differs from the one-syllable pronunciation of Maule, has its origins in central France, Alsace, and Belgium. There are records in France of a family, de la Molle. Whether this family is related to those of Alsace and Belgium is unknown. There are accounts that the Molle family originated in Italy and settled in Gaul during the first century, but records of such migrations do not exist and are not likely to be found. Another account is that Catholic members of the De Mollay family used La Molle to distinguish themselves from the Huguenot members of the family. There also is a family with origins in Sicily, who explain that the spelling was changed from Mule because of the French influence in New Orleans where the family settled. The name has been spelled Mol, Moll, Maul, and Maule, the last apparently because to the clerk it sounds like Maule (though in fact it is pronounced differently). Interestingly, the only record of a de Mollay family are the references to the Templar Jacques de Mollay, which poses the possibility that, considering the pronunciation, de Mollay was a variation of de Maule, as presumably pronounced at that time.


     See the discussion under Molle with respect to de Mollay. The surname Mollay has not been noted.


     This surname is a variant spelling of the surname Moll. See also the discussion of the spelling variation of the surname Molle.


     This surname originates in Belgium, and its pronunciation isn't quite the same as that of Maule. The surname derives from de Moll, as discussed here. Although the Moll family has existed for at least 700 years, there is no indication that it is connected with the Maule, de Maule, de Mauley, or Mauleon families. There is a town in Belgium named Moll or Mol which has existed since ancient times and which may have given its name to one or more progenitors of this family. For more information, see this research.

     See also the discussion of the spelling variation of the surname Molle.


     This surname is a variation of Maul, at least with respect to the Maul family that settled in York, Pennsylvania.


     There are several descriptions of this surname.

     There are at least several Moule families with English origins, but none appear to trace to ancestors earlier than the seventeenth century. It is possible that sloppy handwriting converted an a into an o, and if that in fact is the case, then these families are Maule families. There are some features in the coats of arms of these families that resemble the de Mauleon and de Mauley arms.

     In other instances, this spelling apparently is a variation on the surname Moul. Perhaps just as some members of the Maul family added an e during World War One, so, too, members of the Moul family may have added an e at the same time for the same reason.

     There also is a family with origins in Bohemia that had its surname changed from Mule or Molle to Moule.


     This variation appears to be an earlier spelling of one of the English Moule families. It appears to be no longer in use.


     Another variation on Moule that very well could be the same sort of possessive formation that might explain the surname variation Mawles.


     Some persons surnamed Mull can trace their ancestry to the Isle of Mull. Others trace to persons surnamed Moll, with the spelling having changed at some point. There are slight differences between the pronunciations of Moll and Mull, and both differ slightly from Maule.

de Mauleon

     The surname de Mauleon was used by persons originating in the town of Mauleon, France. The surname apparently in turn was used as the name of a town in Basque Territory. See the discussion under the Maule surname, above, for more information.


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     According to Commissary Maule's History of the family in the Dalhousie Muniments (GD 45/26/53), written in 1610, this is a variant spelling of Maule. Other notations in his materials indicate a correlation between individuals he describes as "de Maulain" and individuals of the same first name and other characteristics found in the de Mauleon family. But there is an extremely small village in eastern France known as Maulain, in the twelfth century there were Lords of Maulain, and either the town or the family has a coat of arms. Yet there is no indication that any member of this family or individual of this name was active in Scotland and could account for records in that country of persons with surnames so spelled.

de Mauley

     The surname de Mauley first appears in connection with Piers (Pierre, Peter) de Mauley, who is described as from Poitou. It is fairly certain, based on recent research, that he was a member of the de Mauleon family and that de Mauley was a spelling variant reflecting differences between French dialects as used in southern France and England. See the discussion under the Maule surname, above, for more information.

     On page 22 of Miscellany of the Scottish Record Society, vol 3 (1919), Mauley is used as the spelling for James Maule of Melgum, whose surname unquestionably is Maule.

de Maulay

     A variant spelling of de Mauley, as demonstrated by the use of the Latin form "de Malo Lacu" for both de Mauley and de Maulay.

     There is a small village called Maulay in France, north of Poitiers, and not too far from Mauleon. One account of its history explains that it is mentioned in a parchment written in 987 and found in the old Abbey of Saint-Pierre de Bourgueil, that the lords of the two strongholds, Haut-Maulay and Bas-Maulay, were described in charters as "Sire [Lord] de Maulay," that it is not known whether the lords of the two places were from the same family, and that ancient charters reveal the names of three: Guillaume de Maulay (living in 1085), Vivien de Maulay (1095), and Henri de Maulay (1319).

     More research is needed to determine if there are connections between the de Mauleon (de Mauley/de Maulay) family and the town of Maulay.

     According to Commissary Maule's History of the family in the Dalhousie Muniments (GD 45/26/53), written in 1610, Maulay is a variant spelling of Maule.


     This spelling is used to refer to Maule in the records of the Abbey of Joyenval. It also appears as a variant of Mauley.


     This spelling is used to refer to Maule in the records of the Abbey of Joyenval.


     This spelling is used to refer to Maule in Gabriel du Moulin's book, L'Histoire Generale de Normandie.


     According to Commissary Maule's History of the family in the Dalhousie Muniments (GD 45/26/53), written in 1610, this is a variant spelling of Maule.


     According to Commissary Maule's History of the family in the Dalhousie Muniments (GD 45/26/53), written in 1610, this was the "Inglish" spelling of the de Mauley or de Malo Laco family. Maule describes this family as distinct from the Maule family. However, he also asserts that de Mauleon and de Maule ARE the same family.


     According to Commissary Maule's History of the family in the Dalhousie Muniments (GD 45/26/53), written in 1610, this is a variant spelling of Maule.


     According to Commissary Maule's History of the family in the Dalhousie Muniments (GD 45/26/53), written in 1610, this is a variant spelling of Maule. He asserts that it is not the same as de Mauley.


     According to Commissary Maule's History of the family in the Dalhousie Muniments (GD 45/26/53), written in 1610, this is a variant spelling of Maule.


     A spelling of the name found in the 1697 genealogical chart of the family, seemingly written by Harry Maule and found in the Dalhousie Muniments.

de Maullaleu

     Another variation, quite possibly a cross between de Mauley and de Malo Lacu.


     According to Commissary Maule's History of the family in the Dalhousie Muniments (GD 45/26/53), written in 1610, this is a variant spelling of Maule. He asserts that it is not de Mauley.

     It is interesting to note that the addition of the s resembles the addition of an s to Mawle, which generates Mawles, and the addition of the s to Moule, generating Moules.


     According to Commissary Maule's History of the family in the Dalhousie Muniments (GD 45/26/53), written in 1610, this is a variant spelling of Maule common in Angus and Fife in Scotland. He attributes it to pronunciation.

Le Male

     In some of the early Scottish records, descendants of the de Maule family were recorded as having the surname Le Male. It is unclear whether this was a way in which cadet branches of the family were described or if Le Male was an attempt to describe someone as "the Maule." The records are sufficiently complete to disprove any assertion that Le Male was a different family from de Maule. In at least one translation Le Male is identified as the same as de Malle.


     The Manley family, of which there are many branches, may have its origins with a Roger de Manley who lived during the twelfth century. As described by Cat Sokol on her Manley DNA Project web site, there are sufficient similarities between Maude de Manley and Maude de Maule, both of whom are recorded as having married Iorwerth Goch ap Meredydd that it is not unreasonable to conclude that the de Manley and de Mauley families are the same, with sloppy handwriting causing a substitution of u for n (not unlike the same error that occurred when a typeset n or u was placed upside-down in the type press). Cat also reports, "There are also military records in the archives of the UK giving the name of a deManley & a de Maule (same given name), at the same time, in the same place, fighting in the same campaign."

     Research using Y-DNA is underway to assist in proving or disproving this theory. However, participation by people surnamed Maule has been so infrequent that no conclusions have yet been reached (even though Manley participation has been sufficient to prove links among various Manley branches). The Manley surname is spelled in several dozen ways, but I leave that discussion to Cat, who deals with the matter on her web site.

The Latin Variations

     During the Middle Ages, it was accepted practice for monks who were writing in Latin to create Latin translations for the surnames appearing in their works. For Maule, the monks used Maulea, Maulia and Masculus. Maulia and Maulea are simple enough to understand. Masculus appears to be derived from Maule or Le Male.

     In an extract from A.J, Warden's Angus or Forfarshire, vol. 4, reports:

In Robertson's "Scotland under Her Early Kings"', it is said the appellation Masculus, Le Male, attached to an ancient Angus family in early times, seems to have been perpetuated with the old broad pronunciation under the form of Maule. The John Masculo who received the charter of the Mill of Downie from David II may therefore have been John Maule.
     Another source claims that some clerk or scribe simply chose Masculus as the Latinized version of Maule, without regard to pronunciation. One possibility is that the clerk heard the name Maule as sounding like male, and then provided the Latin word that can be translated as male, that is, masculus, which survives in modern English in the word masculine.

     Yet early English records, using the surname Masculus in places such as Winchester, disprove the notion that Masculus is a surname restricted to an ancient Angus family, unless by "ancient Angus family" Robertson is referring to the de Maule family which reached Scotland in the early twelfth century.

     The Latin term used for de Mauley was de Malo Lacu. Literally it means "bad lake" and why it would be the translation for Mauley is unclear. It is used not only for the de Mauley family but also for early members of the Maule family in Scotland, where it appears as de Malo lacu. The lack of capitalization of the l in lacu suggests that perhaps lacu was added to distinguish one de Malo individual from another. In that event, the question is whether de Malo is a Latin form of de Maule or of de Mauley, or of yet some other name. There also appears in the records, long before the arrival of the first de Mauley, the name de Maulokum to refer to a de Maule. This appears to be the addition of "okum" to Maul(e), and further research is needed to determine what this means.

The Meinill and variant Question

     Early histories of the Maule family describe members of the family receiving grants of land in Hatun (Ayton) in Cleveland, Yorkshire. Subsequent research convinced some individuals that these grants were to members of the de Meinill family.

     Much more recent research has disclosed that there are at least a dozen variants of the spelling of Meinill, in addition to its Latin version of Mainillo: Maisnell, Mainell, Menel, Menelle, Meynill, Meignall, Mennill, Mainil, Maisnil, Maenil, Meinell, and Manul. The last of these, Manul, appears in handwriting that reasonably can be interpreted as Maulia or Maulai, both variant spellings of Maule. Additional research determined that the spelling of the name appears to be Mauul (which could be attributed to the same sort of u and n transposition that could explain the Manley - Mauley identifications).

     There are three reasons that the corruption of Maule, in the form Maulia, into Meinill is possible. First, in the genealogies of the Meinill family, the progenitor Stephen, is not given any parents or geographical origin. Second, the given names in the family (Stephen, Robert, Peter, Radolphus (Raoul), Walter, Hugo (Hugues)) are the same as those found in the de Maule family of Maule, France and its cadet branch in Scotland. Third, the original charters granting the lands in question are in the Panmure charter chest, far to the north, causing one to wonder why the charters would be in the possession of the Maule family. It is quite possible that the Meinill family is a branch of the Maule family.

     However, the pronunciation of Meinill or its variants, if following a reasonable interpretation of the spellings, is not the same as that of Maule.

The Name Maule in Soundex

     The soundex system used for sorting names assigns M400 to Maule. M for the initial letter, 4 for the L, and two zeroes because there are no other consonants, vowels being ignored. A list of surnames also assigned M400 includes not only most of those discussed in this discourse (Maul, Maeule, Maull, Maulle, Mawle, Mawlle, Mawl, Mawley, Mall, Malle, Mauel, Mawel, Mal, Molle, Mollay, Mol, Moll, Moul, Moule, Mull, Mauley, Maulay, Maulue, Mallae, Maului, Mauluy, Mauloy, Mauloa, Maile, Male, but not Maw, Mow, Mawles, Mauld, Mould, Moules, Mauleon, Maulain, or Maulis) but also others almost surely not connected with the family, such as Malloy, Milloy, Malley, Mill, Milley, Millie, Mell, Mello and many others.

     This observation demonstrates that the simplicity of the name (in contrast to ones with several syllables and many consonants) contributes to the confusion in the spellings. It also raises the possibility that the passing of the surname does not necessarily follow genetic lines, even if the one-time tradition of giving children the surname of the wealthier parent is taken into account.

     Note: I continue to express my appreciation to Brian Maule, who contributed immensely to what we know about Maule origins, and whose keen observations, sensible skepticism, and insistence on accuracy has been a blessing. It is worth reading Brian's short essay on the variations of the surname Maule.
© Copyright 2004 James Edward Maule All rights reserved.
Page initially published: 15 August 2004