This interesting and unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is derived from a nickname for a brisk or active person, from the Middle English (1200 - 1500) "snell", quick, lively, in part representing a survival of the Olde English pre 7th Century personal name "Snell", similar to the Old Norse "Snjallr". Snell is an example of that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. The nicknames were given in the first instance with reference to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, supposed resemblance to an animal or bird's appearance or disposition, habits of dress and occupation. The modern surname can be found recorded as Snell and Snel(l)man, and the patronymics of the name include: Snelling and Snelson. Recordings from London Church Registers include the christening of Charles, son of John and Anne Snell, on March 5th 1695, at St. Dionis, Backchurch. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Snel, which was dated 1185, in the "Records of the Templars in England in the 12th Century", Kent, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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