This unusual and interesting name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and a topographical surname acquired in the first instance by someone who lived by a river or on an island. The name derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century phrase "aet thaem ea", at the river, or "aet thaem eg", at the island, which became, in Middle English, "atten (e)ye"; early recordings of the surname include one Robert Atteneye, in the Assize Court Rolls of Somerset of 1269. Subsequent misdivision of the phrase produced the modern form of the surname, as in the recording of Gilbert de la Nye, in the 1315 Feet of Fines for Essex.A number of modern surnames have a similar development: Nash, "atten ash", No(a)kes, "atten oak", and Nalder, "atten alder". Topographical names were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided obvious and convenient identifying names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. The surname Nye can also be found as Nie, Ney, and Nay. London Church Registers record the christening of John, son of Phillipp Nye, at St. Dionis Backchurch, on November 30th 1630, and the marriage of Thomas Nye and Katherine Hunter on June 10th 1639, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Nay, which was dated 1207, in the "Feet of Fines of Essex", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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