This interesting and unusual surname is a medieval English topographical name arising from a misdivision of the Middle English "atten (e)ye", which means both at the river, and at the island, from the Olde English pre 7th century "ea" meaning river and "eg" meaning island. It may also be a locational name from Nye in Winscombe, Somerset, or Neigh Bridge in Somerford Keynes, Wiltshire, both deriving from the same source, that is "atten (e)ye". The surname dates back to the early 13th Century,(see below). Early recordings include Robert Atteneye (1269), and William Atteneye (1276), in the Assize Court Rolls of Somerset. Variations in the spelling of the surname include Nighe, Nie and Nye. London Church Records list the christenings of Marie, daughter of Thomas Nighe, on March 25th 1617, at St. Margaret Pattens, and of John, son of John and Sarah Nigh, on 16th November 1766, at St. Mary's, Marylebone Road. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Nay, which was dated 1207, in "The Feet of Fines in Essex", 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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