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Nelson Family History
This notable surname is of early medieval English origin, and is a patronymic form of the Middle English personal name Nell or Nele, itself coming from either 1)the Old Gaelic-Irish personal name Niall, thought to mean "champion", or 2) a pet form of Elias. It is argued that the former was adopted by Norsemen in the form "Njall", and was brought to Northern England and East Anglia by Scandinavian settlers. Among the Normans (although French speaking, themselves of Scandinavian origin) it is said to have taken the form "Ni(h)el", which was usually Latinized as "Nigellus" through an incorrect association with the word for black/dark. One Willelmus filius (son of) Nigelli was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 for Berkshire, and a Willelmus filius Nele in the 1304 Subsidy Rolls of Yorkshire.
From the Middle English personal name Nelle, which is either a variant of Nele (Latinised Nigellus), or a pet form of the personal name Elias, the Latin and New Testament Greek form of Hebrew Eliyahu 'Jehova is God'.
The surname Neilson is a variant.
According to Woulfe the Gaelic surname Mac Neighill was anglicised to Neilson, Nielson and Nelson. It is most likely that this is a Scottish-Gaelic surname, derived from the Norse form Njall.
Early bearers: Adam Nel, Oxfordshire 1273 (Hundred Rolls) John Nelleson, West Yorks 1324 (Wakefield Court Rolls); Johannes Nelesone in Lincolnshire 1377 (Poll Tax); Thomas Nelson in Lancashire 1458 (Fines).
The main location for the surname in 1881 was Lancashire and West Yorkshire with a combined frequency of over 2, 600. In 1891 the frequency of the surname Nelson in Lancs stood at 3,073, which was 24% of the England & Wales population. There was another group of Nelson households in Norfolk with a frequency in 1881 of 500.
Joseph Nelson (b. 1809) was a Cornishman convicted UK on 24th March 1835 and sentenced to 7 years penal servitude for forging half crowns; he was transported to Australia aboard the ship "Recovery" on 26th October 1835.
The famous British admiral, Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), came from a family in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk.
A significant group settled in Northern Ireland, several of whom such as John Nelson, taking ship in 1833, settled in New Brunswick, Canada.
1881, 1891 Census
A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, C.W.E. Bardsley, London 1872-96
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
Surnames of the Unoted Kingdom, H. Harrison, London 1912
Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall, P. Woulfe, Dublin 1913
Surnames of Ireland, E. MacLysaght, Dublin 1985
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain & Ireland, eds Hanks, Coates, McClure 2016
Cornwall Online Parish Clerks: retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/emigration_australia_convicts.pdf
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