This ancient and historic surname is of Scottish origin, although popular in parts of Ireland. It derives from Mac an Abbadh, meaning the son of the abbot! The early chiefs were the lay abbots of the monastery of Glen Dochart, a valley which joins Glen Lochay at the head of Loch Tay, north-west of Edinburgh. In the early church, the abbot of a monastery usually belonged to a leading family of the tribe or "tuath", the office being hereditary to that family. As the the monastery grew rich, the energies of the abbot became more temporal than spiritual, and the abbot a man about town, who took to rearing families and delegating authority to a monk or cleric. In the reign of William the Lion (1165 - 1214), the abbot of Glen Dochart ranked as an equal with earls of Atholl and Monteath. In a genealogy of the Macnabs in 1467 we find Gillafaelan who founded a 7th Century monastery in the region named as one of the early chiefs. Other interesting recordings include that of Robart Gynnab, a Scots prisoner of war in Colchester in 1396, whilst Archibald McNab was a lieutenant in the 42nd regiment of foot, who died in New York in 1767 during the American War of Independance. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Mathew M'Nab. This was dated 1376, in the records of the earl of Douglas, during the reign of King Robert 11nd of Scotland, 1370 - 1390. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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