This unusual surname may be either of Anglo-Saxon or of Old Norse origin. If the former, the name is locational from the parish and village of Snape, south of Saxmundham in East Suffolk. Recorded as "Snapes" in the Domesday Book of 1086, the place was so called from the Olde English pre 7th Century "snaep", scanty grassland, or poor piece of grazing land. In Sussex, the dialectal term "snape" is still used of boggy, uncultivated land, and Snape, a minor place south west of Wadhurst in Sussex, was probably named from this source.The name may, of course, also be topographical from residence by a poor piece of land as the following early recordings show: Henry de la Snape and John atte Snape (Sussex, 1273 and 1327, respectively). Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages, and locational surnames were given as a means of identification to those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere. The surname may also be of northern English origin, and locational from Snape in Lancashire and Yorkshire, so called from the Old Norse "snap", cognate with the Olde English "snaep" (above). In 1526, one James Snape was noted in the "Court Book of the Barony of Carnwath", Lanarkshire, Scotland. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Agnes del Snape, which was dated 1242, in the "Chartulary of the Monastery of Ramsey", Huntingdonshire, 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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