This ancient surname is of Scottish Gaelic origins, but in various forms is now equally popular in Ireland,and may also be found in the Isle of Man. These spellings including Mackney, MacNae, MacNay, MacNea, MacNee, McNee, McNee, McNeigh, Magnay, Magnae, Magenny, and others, and it translates as 'The son of the champion'. The clan was originally a branch of the Scottish MacGregors, whilst in Ireland one Macnia was king of Ard, a district in the original barony of Iveagh, County Down. To add to the confusion many of the people in Ireland now called Neville were originally MacNee's, because in the 18th century it was easier to obtain employment if the nameholder had an Anglo-Scottish surname. The early records indicate that the family called O' Neidhe were the keepers of St.Patrick's Bell at Knockpatrick, County Limerick in the 15th century, although whether these were of the original Scottish descent is not clear. Donald McNie and Gillemore McNie were fined at Balquidder, Scotland, in 1613, for supporting the Clan MacGregor which was undergoing one of its periods of being outlawed. Early church recordings include Owen McNee, christened at Derry Cathedral, Co. Derry, on November 26th 1658, whilst in Scotland at St.Cuthberts, Westkirk, Midlothian, Jane McNae married Patrick Chrystie on June 12th 1688. The earliest London church recordings include Audrey Magney who married the appropriately named William Marriage at St Johns Hackney on Christmas Day, 1628, whilst George MacKney christened at Christ Church Southwark, on May 12th 1708. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of MacNia of Buite. This was dated 1037 in the ancient chronicles of Scotland, during the reign of King Duncan 1st of Scotland, 1034 - 1040. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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