Recorded in a number of spellings including Nelane, Neylane, Neiland, Neeland, Neillan, Nilan, Nealon, Neilon, and Neelands, Neelans, Neilans, Neillans, Neilons, Nellan and many others, this is a surname of truly ancient and noble origins. It is Irish in origin, the first recorded name holder being Niall Glandubh, King of Ireland, killed by the Vikings at the battle of Dublin in 946 a.d. and from whom all the later O' Neill's, Kings of Ulster and princes of Tyrone claim descent. However spelt it derives from the Gaelic word 'nia' meaning 'champion', and given the history of the O' Neills and Neills, was well earned. The Irish (Gaelic) records of the Dark Ages were the finest in Europe and it is another blot on the 20th century that these having survived 800 years of the so-called British Invasion, were then wantonly destroyed by the IRA in Dublin in 1922 during the Irish Civil War. English and Scottish records are generally good. Professor Black's famous dictionary 'The Surnames of Scotland' states that this name is first recorded in the Domesday Book of England in 1086, but does not quote the reference. We believe he is referring to 'Nigelus of Berkshire' in 1085. Nigelus being a Latinised Norman form of Neil, the Normans having added a -g-during its long journey around Europe. Niall or Neill are well recorded as surnames in medieval England as are the patronymic Nelson or Neilson. Between the 8th and the 11th century a.d. the name was spread by the all conquering Norse-Vikings, as they hammered their rapacious way along the western and northern edges of the British Isles and the Continent- finally settling in West France, forever afterwards known as Normandy. The surname in this research is either a diminutive meaning 'Little Niall (or Niell)' as in Niallan, Neillan, Neilon etc. or when with a suffix ending of '-s' is a diminutive short patronymic translating as - 'The son of Little Neill'. The first recording in Scotland may be that of Achyne mac Nele, of the land of Culwen in 1289, whilst later church registers in Scotland and Ireland include Samuel Neilans of Donagh, County Donegal, Ireland, on May 26th 1846, and John Neillans who married Charlotte Aitchison at Edinburgh Parish Church, Scotland, on June 18th 1872.
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