Recorded in a wide range of spellings including Niven, Nevin, Nevins, and Nevinson, this is usually a surname of Scottish origins, but is equally well recorded in Ireland. However spelt the surname has two origins, both Gaelic. Firstly it may be a form of the ancient Gaelic personal name "Naoimhin", a diminutive form of "naomh", and translating as 'Little saint'. Whether this was the literal meaning is another question, but clearly it in the early days a baptismal name of endearment. Secondly, it could originate from "Mac Cnaimhin", with "Mac", meaning "son of" and "Cnamh", a bone. As such it was apparently a nickname referrence to the first chief of the clan who was a "bony man". It is said that in Scotland the name was first recorded in Galloway in the year 1230 when one Nevinus was the parson of Neveth, whilst later in 1296 Patrick Nevin rendered homage to the short lived republican government of Scotland. In Ireland it is claimed that the name originated in County Galway, about the same period, and is now widespread throughout the country, mostly without the "Mac" prefix. Early examples of the surname recordings include Thomas Nevin, who was the official messenger for the king of Scotland in 1538, whilst the Nevins or Nivens of Monkredding held their lands by charter from 1539. Other recordings include: the marriage of James McNiven to Ann Casey on March 30th 1769 at St. James' church, Westminster, and the christening of Michael, the son of John Phillip and Fannie McNevin, on December 29th 1840, in Dublin. Among the famous namebearers is Baron McNevin (1723 - 1790), who emigrated to Austria, and was physician to the Empress Maria Theresa. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of John McNevin. This was dated 1159, in the "Ancient Records of Ireland", during the reign of Irish High Kings with opposition, 1022 - 1166. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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