The English holders of this early surname derive from one of four sources. Three loosely French medieval, the other 18th Century Irish. The most usual is from a hypocoristic form of the ancient Hebrew personal name "Matthew", shortened to Mai, Mey, or May. However, these forms in themselves were symbols of endearment akin to the popular "Cousin" or "Dear Child". The third possibility is locational from the French town of Mee; the word means the marsh or swamp. The fourth is from an Anglicization of the Irish-Gaelic "Miadhaigh", which translates as "the honourable one". The original County Westmeath spelling was O'Miey, later contracted to Mea, Mee and May. The recordings include (in France) Jacques de Mee, of Andard, on July 4th 1605, and Nicolas de Mee, of Angers, both Loire-et-Maine, on July 5th 1649. In England, Helen Mee was recorded in London, on June 1st 1555, whilst Richard Mee appears in the Registers of Salford, Bedford, on October 12th 1606, and one James Mee, at Harrold, Bedfordshire, on September 30th 1697, in the reign of William of Orange (1689 - 1702). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Le Mey, which was dated 1221, in the "Rolls of the Abbey of Ely", Suffolk, during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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