This interesting name has had a long and varied history. It is derived from the old Irish and Gaelic "Nial" meaning "the Champion" a fact which has no doubt contributed to its long popularity. What makes the name different is that it reached England via Iceland, Norway and France, being introduced by the Normans in 1066. It is often not appreciated that the original Vikings first landed in Ireland circa 7th Century and then "returned home" through Iceland before ultimately invading both Britain and what is now Normandy (the place of the Norse-men). The early recordings include Willemus filius Nigelli in the 1086 Domesday Book (Nigel being a variant of Nial), Willelmus Nel of Yorkshire in 1304, Roger Niel of Suffolk (1319), whilst Amos Neal was christened at St Giles Church, Cripplegate, on August 18th 1585, and married on August 21st 1608, to Elizabeth Brooke at St Gregory by St. Paul's Cathedral. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robertus Neel which was dated 1208, in the "Berkshire Curia Pipe Rolls", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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