This interesting name is a variant form of the surname "Neil", which is of Gaelic (Irish) origin from the personal name "Niall", thought to mean "champion". The Norsemen who settled in Ireland before the 11th Century adopted the name as "Njall", and introduced it into North West England when they began to invade and settle there directly from Ireland. The Norsemen were also indirectly responsible for the name being introduced to Southern England by the Normans after 1066, who had adopted it form the Scandinavians as "Ni(h)el". The name is now found in many variant forms in England, Ireland and Scotland. The surname Kneal, Kneel, or Kneale is from the Isle of Man, but from the same origins, and is a typical Manx contraction of the Gaelic patronymic "Mac Niall", son of Niall. Early recordings from the Isle of Man include John Kneel who married Isabella Caveen at Malew on July 12th 1636 and John Kneale who married Katherin Kewne also at Malew, on July 10th 1655. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ewan Kneal, which was dated 1598, in the "Ancient Manx Records", during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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