Recorded as Meynell, Menel and Mennell, this is an Anglo-French surname. It has two possible origins. Firstly, it may be topographical, from the pre 7th century Olde French word 'mesnil' meaning country house, and describing a place outside of the main village, wherever that was. There are several minor places in France called Mesnil, and the surname may also be locational name from any of these. Secondly it may also derive from the Norman female personal name Menelilda, from the elements "magin" meaning strength and "hild," a battle. Female names of the Dark Ages, were often warlike in concept, and this is a good example. It is recorded in the Chartulary of Ramsey Abbey, Norfolk in 1250. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 12th century, (see below), and other early examples include Hugh de Meynyl, in the Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire in 1260, and Alan Mahenyld in the Hundred Rolls of Norfolk in 1275. Later examples from church registers include that on August 21st 1547 of Jane Mennell who married Nicholas Blakeney at St. Mary Magdalene, in the city of London and Margareta Menel who married Oliverus Roberts on March 1st 1594, at St. Martin in the Fields, Westminster. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Meinel. This was dated 1166, in the Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Henry 11nd, 1154 - 1189. 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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