This interesting and long-established surname belongs to that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These nicknames were originally given with reference to a variety of personal characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, and mental and moral characteristics. The derivation in this instance is from the Middle English "innocent", ultimately from the Latin "innocens", a compound of "in", not, and "nocens", the present articiple of "nocere", to hurt, harm, used to denote a simple-hearted, guileless person, or one incapable of doing evil. Innocent may also have been given as a baptismal name to a child born on December 28th, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, kept in the West from the 4th Century in honour of the children of Bethlehem who were massacred by Herod the Great following the announcement of Christ's birth. Several early popes, including Innocent 11, elected February 14th 1130, and Innocent 111, elected January 8th 1198, chose this name, and they may, in part, have contributed to its popularity throughout Italy, and the rest of Europe. One Maud Innocent was recorded in the 1402 Close Rolls of London, and in 1505, a John Incent was entered in the Oxford University Register. On March 13th 1684, Katharine Innocent and Joseph Hull were married at St. James', Duke's Place, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Innocent, which was dated 1371, in the "Issue Rolls of London", during the reign of King Edward 111, known as "The Father of the Navy", 1327 - 1377. 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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