Recorded in various spellings including Orknay, Orkney, and at various times Orkynay and Orkynnay, this is a Scottish surname. It originates from the Orkney Islands, originally part of Denmark, until passed to Scotland as part of a marriage dowry in medieval times. Locational surnames are almost always "from" names. That is to say names given to people after they left their former homes to live elsewhere. One of the easiest ways to identify a stranger was, and still is, to call him or occasionally her, by the name of the place from whence they came.However spelling at best being erratic, and local dialects very thick, heald to the development over the centuries of alternative spellings. In this case the first known recording of this surname is in England when in the year 1405 one Thomas Orkney, given as being "of Scotland," was arrested at Lowestoft in England, for illegal fishing, clearly nothing has changed over the centuries. Later recordings show the name in more usual circumstances with John Orknay being recorded in the charters of 1457, as holding lands at Abbirbrothoc in Perthshire, whilst in 1478 Thomas Orkynay, and believed to have been the son of John, was recorded as being a witness at the Perthshire assize court. Apparently name holders also held an estate in Berwickshire, as in 1634 Robert Orknay was confirmed as the heir to his grandfather in regard to the lands of Aytoun in the county.
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