This very unusual name is of early English medieval origin, and can be either a metonymic occupational name for a maker of horseshoe-nails, or perhaps a nickname for a farrier, a shoer of horses. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "hors", with "naegel", nail, in Middle English "nail". The surname is mentioned frequently in the accounts books of medieval households. There have been a number of variant forms of the name over the years, such as "Audrey Horsnell (1644, Norfolk), John Horsenell (1650, London) and William Horssnaile (1700, ibid.).The modern surname can be found in all the above forms, plus "Horsnall", "Horsenail", "Horsnail(l)" and "Arsnell". One Margaret Horsnell was married to Francis Rolfe in London in 1639. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry Horsnail, witness, which was dated 1221, in the Assize Rolls of Shropshire, during the reign of King Henry 111, known as the Frenchman, 1216 - 1272. 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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