This remarkable surname has unproven origins. There seems no reason to doubt that it is Medieval English, and the early recordings seem to derive from the Olde English 'snaw' meaning 'snow' and 'bald' -bare. The late Professor Reaney, the leading authority on the origins of English surnames, describes the name as probably originating as a nickname description for someone with a bald spot amongst jet-black hair. We would suggest that the name may have described a monk, sarcasm directed at those of a religious disposition being nothing new, or perhaps more simply the name describes a bald man with a white fringe. As the average age of death in the Middle Ages for a man was about forty, a person with such characteristics may have been quite unusual. All the early recordings are from the North, although quite widespread. These include such examples as Roger Snowbald in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Staffordshire, and in 1332 Robert Snaubal is recorded in the Pipe Rolls of Lancashire. The surname is well recorded in marriage registers from the mid 16th Century. Examples include William Stacye and Katherine Snowball, who obtained a civil licence in London in 1546, and George Snowball, who married Mary Winn, at St. George's church, Hanover Square, London, in 1746. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Snawbal, which was dated 1301, in the Subsidy Rolls of the county of Yorkshire, 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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