This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from Rowney in Hertfordshire. The placename was recorded as "Ruweney" in the 1239 Episcopal Registers, and derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "ruh", rough, overgrown, with "(ge)haeg", enclosure; hence "rough enclosure". During the Middle Ages when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 13th Century (see below). Walter de Rounhey is noted in the 1309 Subsidy Rolls of Bedfordshire, and Beatrice Roweney is listed in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Essex. On April 11th 1583, Walter Rowney married Alice Skinner at St. Alban's Abbey, Hertfordshire, and Ellenor Rowney married John Jolles on September 5th 1626 at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, London. In some instances the surname may be of Irish origin, as an Anglicized form of the Gaelic "O'Ruanaidh", composed of the elements "O", male descendant of, with "Ruanaidh", a personal byname meaning "champion". The (O)Rowney's were a sept of Dromore (Co. Down) and today they are principally to be found in Ulster and the neighbouring county of Leitrim. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Agnes de Rowenheye, which was dated 1275, in the "Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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