This interesting surname, with variant spellings Oneile, Onele and Oneal results from the dropping of the raised apostrophe from the Gaelic Irish surname O' Neil. The Gaelic prefix "O" indicates "male descendant of", plus the personal byname Neil(l) or Niall from the Gaelic "niadh" meaning "champion". This great family claim descent from Niall Glundubh (Black knee), Monarch of Ireland, who was slain in the early 10th Century. The legendary, Niall of the Nine Hostages, 4th Century High King of Ireland was also a remote ancestor. Two main branches of this family established themselves in Ireland, the northern O' Neill of Ulster who held the title "Earls of Tyrone", and from whose Coat of Arms the Red hand of Ulster is taken, and the souther O'Neill clan who occupied County Meath. On June 16th 1605 Margaret Oniell, an infant was christened in St. Bride Fleet Street, London, and in August 1735 Arthur Oneill and Sarah Godfrey were married in St. Andrew by the Wardrobe, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Donell O' Neill, grandson of Niall Glundubh, which was dated circa 1000, in the "Historic Annalls of Ireland", during the reign of King Malachy 11, known as "High King of Ireland", 977 - 1002. 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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