Origin of the name Nale and the Family Coat of Arms....

In 1957 I was on my way to Southern California to the Marine Corps base in San Diego and I met a man who lived in San Francisco and who was interested in genealogy. We discussed my rather unusual last name and he promised to check into it and write to me. He told me, in his letter, that the origin had nothing to do with Nail which was derived from someone who made nails. Instead, he said, it came from someone in the dim and dark past who either ran an alehouse or spent a lot of time in one. The phrase, at that time, was "atten ale".

There is a process in language in which a letter migrates from one word to another. I forget what it is called. He claimed that the phrase became "atte nale" with the same meaning and thus gave the name to the family.

He made reference to William Langland's "The Vision of Piers Plowman" in which "atte nale" could be found with the meaning of at the alehouse. I have located the passage, Passus 6.114:

At heigh prime Piers leet the plough stonde,
To oversen hem hymself; whoso best wroghte,
He sholde be hired therafter, whan hervest tyme come.
Thanne seten somme and songen atte nale,
And holpen ere this half acre with "How trolly lolly!"

I have since found an example in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales".  In the Friar's tale, line 1348:

And they were glade for to fille his purs,
And make hym grete feestes atte nale

(They were happy to give him money and feed him well at the local alehouse.)


Years later, while still living in Oregon, I requested and received a sheet of text from Halberts which confirmed at least part of the story and a picture which supplied the coat of arms.

Here is the important part of the text:

"The Nale Coat of Arms illustrated left was drawn by an heraldic artist from information officially recorded in ancient heraldic archives. Documentation for the Nale Coat of Arms design can be found in "Rietstap Armorial General". Heraldic artist of old developed their own unique language to describe an individual Coat of Arms. In their language, the Arms (shield) is as follows:

'D'azur al la fasce de gu., acc. de quatre equerres du meme adossees, 2 en chef et 2 en p.'

When translated this Arms description is:

'Blue; a red horizontal band with four red carpenter's squares back to back, two in the top and two in the bottom.'

Above the shield and helmet is the Crest which is described as:  'Trois pl. d'aut.; d'azur, d'or et de gu.'

A translation of the Crest description is:  'Three ostrich feathers; blue, gold and red.'

The sheet further says that the surname Nale appears to be locational in origin, and is believed to be associated with the English and Irish, meaning, 'dweller at, or near the ale-house.'" (It then suggests relationships of name with Nail, Nales and Nails.)

 "Census record available disclose the fact there are approximately 300 heads of households in the United States with the old and distinguished Nale name."

(It then predicted a total of 960 people bearing the name.)

For more information about the Nale family, visit the website of my cousin Bob and his wife Sharon.

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