This interesting surname is of French origin, and is locational from either Saint Paul-du-Vernay in Calvados; from Vernai, a parish in the Arrondissement of Bayeux; or from any of various other places in Northern France of the same name. All are apparently so called from the Gaulish element "ver(n)", meaning "alder", plus the locational suffix "-acum", a settlement. The surname is first recorded in the early half of the 13th Century (see below), and other early recordings include: Lucya de Vernai, who was noted in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire, and Simon de Vernay, who appeared in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Northamptonshire.In the modern idiom the surname has many variant spellings including Vernay, Verney, Verny and Varney. Recordings from London Church Registers include: the christening of Elizabeth, daughter of Anthony Verney, on April 20th 1586, at St. Ann's, Blackfriars; and the marriage of Grevil Varney and Katherine Southwell at St. Margaret's, Westminster, on May 21st 1618. A famous namebearer, recorded in the "Dictionary of National Biography", was Sir Ralph Varney of Oxford, an early advisor to Queen Elizabeth 1, who was granted a Coat of Arms in 1566; it consists of five blue mullets on a silver engrailed fess, all on a blue shield. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Vernai, which was dated 1221, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Gloucestershire", 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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