Recorded in many forms including Wan, which appears now to be totally obselete, Wann, Wanne (English), the rare Scottish M(a)cWhan or Whan, the patronymic Wannes and Wanes, the diminutives Wanell, Wannell, Wanniel, Wonnell (English), the Scottish M(a)cWhannel, M(a)cWhanwel, Whannel, Whannel, Whandle, and others, this interesting name is very confusing. In any spelling except with a Mac or Mc prefix it can be either English or Scottish, as over the centuries the spellings have become fused and confused! The origin is obscure, but the best suggestion would seem to be that it derives from the Olde English pre 7th century word 'wann' meaning pale. As such it may have been a derogatory ethnic name both in England and Scotland to distinguish invading Anglo-Saxons or even Vikings, who were much paler skinned than the native British. On the other hand it could simply have been a nickname for a pale person, or given medieval humour, the complete opposite! There is a another possibility that for some English nameholders that it may be locational from Winnall, a village in the county of Herefordshire. In that case the name means 'Willow valley'. Amongst early recordings of the surname in the surviving registers are Thom M'Quhonale of Perthshire, Scotland, in 1473, Francis Wan or Wans, who married Richard Mayne on August 4th 1588 at the church of St Giles Cripplegate, city of London, Francis Wannell who was christened at the church of St Lawrence Jewry, on March 13th 1591, David Whannel of Galloway, Scotland, in 1684, and Christian Mclwhaneel of Glenichorn, Scotland, in 1701. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Warner Wan. This is in the Subsidy Tax Rolls of Yorkshire in 1297, during the reign of King Edward 1st, 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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