This is indeed a wondrously confusing name, found in a greater variety of spellings, given its inherent simplicity, than almost any other. It is French in origin, it derives from "Noir" and is certainly a nickname for a person of dark features, or black hair, or possibly even one who was perceived to undertake "dark" deeds. Medieval nickname surnames had very broad interpretations, and without being actually present at the time when the original soubriquet, it is difficult today to give a precise medieval meaning.However over 20% of all surnames have a personal descriptive origin, "Noir" being the equivalent of the English "Black" and with the same meanings. When the name first arrived in England is difficult to say, but it was probably 12th century, although we have not been able to confirm such an early date. Certainly a number of Huguenot "Noir's" came in the 17th century including Phillippe Nere, christened at Threadneedle Street French Huguenot Church on June 17th 1688, and Louis Noyer, the son of Isaac and Rachelle, christened at Glasshouse Street Huguenot Church on January 25th 1713. Jacob Neare married Elizabeth Lester at the church of St Katherine by the Tower, on February 8th 1737, and the patronymic Nears was recorded when Anna Nears, the daughter of Georgi and Marthae, was christened at St Martins in the Field, Westminster on November 17th 1671. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Martyn Nere, which was dated September 26th 1559, who was christened at the church of St Margaret Pattens, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess" 1558 - 1603. 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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