This is a Scottish surname, which is also found widely in Ireland. The spellings recorded range widely from the original Gaelic "Fionlagh" and include Findlay, Finely, Finelly, Finelay, Fennelly, Finlry and Finlray. However spelt it is composed of the original elements "fionn" meaning "fair", plus "lagh", a hero. The Vikings being fair, the name may well refer to a Viking chief of the pre 10th century. The Old Scottish Chronicles of the Kings of Dalrida record the name as Fionnlaoich and Finnleoch, circa 1080. The name of MacBeth's father was spelt Findleach in "The Book of Leinster" (1070), and it seems that the name was generally translated as "Fair Head". Early examples of the name recording include Fynlayus Clericus, who witnessed a charter at Paisley Monastery in 1246. Other later examples taken from early surviving church registers include Robert Finlaw of Leith in 1567, John Findlo of Montrose in 1639, and Lillias Finley, who was christened in Edinburgh in 1671. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Andrew Fyndelai, chaplain of Brechin, which was dated 1526 in the "Episcopal Register of Brechin", Scotland, during the reign of King James V of Scotland 1513 - 1543. 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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