This interesting name is of Irish, Scottish and English origin, and derives from a given name of Gaelic origin, "Niall", thought to mean "Champion". The personal name was carried to Ireland by the Scandinavians in the form of "Njall", and then to Norway and Iceland and finally down to Normandy in the 10th Century, from whence it was introduced into Southern England by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066. However, it was also introduced directly into North Western England and Yorkshire by Norwegians invading and settling from Ireland. The name "Niall" was often Latinized as "Nigellus" through an incorrect association with the Latin "niger", black. In the modern idiom the variants of the surname include Neal(l), Neel(s), Neild, Nial(l), O'Neal, O'Neil(l), and MacNeil, while the patronymic forms include Neels, Niles, Nial(l)s, Neilson and Ni(e)lson. One Benjamin Nial was christened on December 2nd 1756, at St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Neel, which was dated 1208 - 1210, in the "Curia Rolls of Berkshire", 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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