This interesting and rare surname is a variant spelling of the name Agnew, which 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 christening of Mary Agney on February 3rd 1741, at St. Olave's, Southwark, and the marriage of Julie Catherine Agney and Jean Marie Batiste Hepolite Balautt on June 28th 1825, at Old Church, St. Pancras. 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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