This interesting surname has a number of possible origins. Firstly, it may be a habitational name from "Agneaux" in La Manche, the etymology of which is uncertain. One Robert de Ayneaus is recorded in the Curia Regis Rolls of Suffolk (1227). It could also have originated from the Old French "agnel", or "agneau" meaning a lamb, and would have been a descriptive nickname for a meek or pious person. One Susanna Agniel is registered in the Curia Regis Rolls of Berkshire (1206). Lastly, it may be an Anglicized form of the Gaelic "O'Gneeve". In Petty's 1659 "census" of all-Ireland, Agnew was one of the principal Irish names in the baronies of Glencarn and Belfast. Recordings from London Church Registers include: the marriage of Francis Agnew and Margrett Strowde on January 23rd 1689, at St. James', Duke's Place, and the christening of Eleanor, daughter of Andrew Agnew, on May 12th 1714, at St. Benet's, Paul's Wharf. The most distinguished of the name in modern times was Antrim born Sir James Willson Agnew M.D. (1815 - 1901), who was Premier of Tasmania. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Agnel, which was dated 1201, in the "Red Book of the Exchequer", Suffolk, during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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