This very interesting surname recorded in the spellings of MacNutt, McNutt, Nutt, Nott, and the diminutive Nutkins, has several possible origins. It may be Gaelic Irish, and when from Londonderry where most are to be found, is generally accepted as being ultimately of Scottish origins from McNaught. However some researchers claim this is not so, and that it is from O' Dowd, a purely Irish name. The second is English and occupational for a farmer or merchant of nuts from the Olde English 'cnut' . 'Nuts formed a significant and vital role in the winter diet of the ancient peoples, and large areas of woodland were intensively farmed to provide these essential fruits. The third possibility is that the name was a nickname for a 'hard nut'. As the name was also the name of a Viking King of England in the famous King Canute, more correctly spelt 'Cnut'. It is clear that the meaning was far from derogatory. Amongst the early recordings was Adam Notekyn of Essex in the Hundred Rolls of that county in 1273, and Hugh le Notte of Buckinghamshire in the same year. John Nutkins, a miller was also recorded in Essex in the year 1666, whilst several of the MacNutts and Nutts of Londonderry emigrated to North America in the 18th century and became extremely wealthy in that country. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Nutte which was dated 1181 in the Pipe Rolls of Northamptonshire during the reign of King Henry 11, known as 'The church builder', 1154 - 1189 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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