This interesting surname with variant spellings MacNee, MacNay, MacNea, MacNeigh etc., derives from the Gaelic "Mac Niadh", son of (mac) the champion (neidhe) which is a branch of the Scottish clan MacGregor, and is also found in Connacht, Ireland as MacNea(gh) and MacNay and is also found in the Anglicized form "Neville". Some Irish people tended to anglicize their names so as to have a better chance of gaining employment in the English establishment in Ireland. The personal name "Macnia", belonging to King of Ard of the Ui Echadh, a district in the baronies of Upper and Lower Iveagh, Co.Down, was recorded in Irish record in the 8th Century. A family by the name O' Neidhe were keepers of St. Patrick's Bell at Knockpatrick Co. Limerick. One Margaret McKnee married John Irland at Edinburgh Parish, Edinburgh on November 27th 1662 while at St. Cuthberts, Westkirk, Midlothian Jane McNae married Patrick Chrystie. The earliest London church recordings show that George MacKney was christened at Christ church Southwerk on May 12th 1708, while William McNae married Sarah Clerk in London on August 7th 1832. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Owen McNee, son of Knougher McKnee, was christened, which was dated November 26th 1658, at Derry Cathedral, Templemore, Derry, during the reign of Richard Cromwell, "The Lord Protector", 1658 - 1660. 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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