This ancient Gaelic surname with variant spellings MacNae, MacNay, MacNea, MacNeigh etc., derives from "Mac Niadh", which translates as 'The son of the champion' (neidhe). The clan, originally a branch of the Scottish MacGregors, is now widely recorded in Ireland where 'Macnia' (circa 700 a.d.) was king of Ard, a district in the original baronies of Iveagh, County Down. To add to the confusion many of the people in Ireland who are now called 'Neville' were originally MacNee's! This was because in the 18th century it was easier to obtain employment if the nameholder had an English surname. The early records indicate that a family by the name O'Neidhe were 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, for supporting the Clan MacGregor which was undergoing one of its periods of being outlawed. From the early church recordings we have Owen McNee, who was christened at Derry Cathedral, Co. Derry, on November 26th 1658, whilst in Scotland Margaret McKnee married John Irland at Edinburgh Parish Church, Edinburgh, on November 27th 1662. At St.Cuthberts, Westkirk, Midlothian, Jane McNae married Patrick Chrystie on June 12th 1688, whilst the earliest London church recordings show maybe that of George MacKney (!) who was christened at Christ Church, Southwalk, on May 12th 1708. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of MacNia of Buite, which was dated Circa 1037,in the ancient chronicles of Scotland, during the reign of King Duncan 1 of Scotland, 1034 - 1040. 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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