This is a very confusing surname, which can be either Irish or English, although the roots are completely different. In general it is accepted that if the name is spelt Neylan, Neilan, Nelon, Neylon and Neiland, it is Irish and derives from the ancient gaelic O'Naillain, loosely translating as 'The descendant of the son of Neil', a reference to the saga known as 'Nail of the nine hostages', from whom the famous O'Neill clan claim their descent over fifteen centuries. However the name as Kneeland, Nealand, Niland, Knellen and Nelane is also recorded both in England and Ireland, and sometimes the overlap is such as to render any definite origin very difficult. The 'English' nameholders derive from the Olde English 'neu -landa', a pre 7th century term which in ancient times referred to lands recovered by the draining of the fen country of East Anglia, the name being first recorded in Cambridge in the 13th century. The forms which appear in Ireland from the 17th century suggest that nameholders went to Ireland as protestant settlers in the Cromwellian 'reforms' after 1651, but this is conjecture. Examples of the surname recordings include Geoffrey de Neuland of Lincoln in 1273, John Knellen of Camberwell, London, christened there on June 20th 1552, and Mary Kneeland, married at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on July 2nd 1620. In Ireland recordings include Mary Neylan who married Adam Bell at St Johns Church, Dublin, on April 18th 1682, Mary Neland, married at St Johns, Limerick, on August 28th 1710, and Michael Neiland, christened at Foxford, County Mayo, on August 29th 1865. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Phelim O'Niallain, which was dated 1093, died at Clonmacnois, County Clare, during the reign of No king of All Ireland from 1086 - 1172. 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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