This famous Scottish clan surname has an uncertain etymology. It would seem that the name is locational from the Monastery of Abernethy in Strathearn, however it is possible that in a sense the origin may be occupational. In ancient times families would be granted a hereditary status for maintaining and improving church lands and property. This was a form of over-tenancy known in Gaelic regions as the 'Erenagh', a lay lord, in the case of Abernethy, an abbot, whose family held the office from generation to generation.What is known is that the first name holder, as shown below, was the abbot of Abernethy, and he was succeeded by his son called 'Orm'. Whether this was an appropriate name for an abbot is open to question as 'Orm' translates at 'The Serpent'! Nethertheless he was recorded as Orm de Abernethy, a designation which indicated land owning status. Certainly Orm de Abernethy was held in high esteem, on one occasion at least he witnessed a charter between the King of Scotland, William the Lyon, in circa 1167. A later descendant was Sir Hugh de Abernethy who swore allegiance to the 'republican' government of Scotland in 1296. This was known as 'The Interregnum', and was overthrown by Robert the Bruce in 1306. The Abernethy coat of arms has the distinctive blazon of a gold field, a red lion rampant, debruised by a black bend, the seal being an eagle displayed. The name was also recorded as being that of Scottish traders, in Prussia in 1644 as Abernetti, and in Sweden in the same period as Ebbernet. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hugh Abernethy, which was dated Circa 1150, the abbot of Culdee Monastery of Abernethy, during the reign of King Malcolm 1V of Scotland, 1153 - 1165. 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.
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