This interesting name is locational from the Hamlet of Pownall in Cheshire, originally recorded as 'Pohenhale' and pronounced locally as Powney - the variant of the name. The meaning is probably "The Place (Halh) on the marshy ground (Polra)", from the Olde English pre 6th Century. It is also possible that some of the name holders as 'Powney' derive from the Olde French 'Poigneor' meaning a 'Fighter a Pugilist' as in Geoffrey le Poinnur - 1220, Essex, but this is not proven. Locational names were given to former inhabitants who moved to another village, this was a source of considerable spelling errors and variants.The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Edmund Powney. which was dated 1661, Old Windsor, Berkshire (Grant of Arms). during the reign of King Charles II, The Merry Monarch, 1660 - 1685. 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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