This interesting surname is of Scottish and Irish origin, and is an Anglicized form of the Scottish Gaelic "MacPhail", and the Irish Gaelic "MacPhoil", both patronymics from the Gaelic forms of the given name Paul. The given name is derived from the Latin "Paulus", meaning "small", and is has always been popular in Christendom. It was the name adopted by the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus after his conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus (A.D. circa 34). He was a most energetic missionary to the gentiles in the Roman Empire, and perhaps played a more significant role than any other of Christ's followers in establishing Christianity as a major world religion.The name was borne also by numerous other early saints. Niven M'Phaill was a charter witness at Sonnachan, Argyll in 1488, and Donald M'Pawle witnessed an indenture between Doncan Makyntosche and Huchone the Rois, baron of Kylraok in 1490. Mary McPhail, a milliner, aged 23 yrs., was a famine emigrant to New York, leaving the port of Glasgow on the "Saracen" in September 1846. Recorded in the Scottish Registers is the birth of David, son of David McPhail and Elizabeth McLaren, on December 9th 1735 at St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh, Midlothian. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gillemore M'Phale, which was dated 1414, in the "Book of the Thanes of Cawdor", Scotland, during the reign of King James 1 of Scotland, 1406 - 1437. 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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