This noble and ancient surname is of early medieval English origin. It derives from the given name Parnell, a vernacular form of the Latin "Petronia", the feminine form of "Petronius". This was a Roman clan name of Etruscan etymology. Petronia was the name borne by an early Roman saint and martyr much invoked against fevers, and is regarded as a daughter of St. Peter. Hence, the name was thought to be a derivative of Peter, and became one of the most popular of girls' names, the vernacular Parnell being still used as a christian name as late as the 18th Century in Cornwall. The personal name is recorded in Lincolnshire Records, during the reign of Richard 1 (1189 - 1199), as "Petronilla", while Pernel la Brune appears in 1268, in the Assize Court Rolls of Somerset. The surname itself first appears in the mid 13th Century (see below), while Agnes Peronell is recorded in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield in 1274. A Parnell family from Congleton, Cheshire, were established in Ireland after the Restoration, having been prominent supporters of Parliament in the Civil War. Charles Stuart Parnell (1846 - 1891), leader of the Irish Home Rule movement, was a member of this family. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Johanna Peronele, which was dated 1250, in the "Feet of Fines of Cambridgeshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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