THE ORIGINS OF THE 'NEAME' SURNAME
For many centuries the origins of the surname of this family has been the topic of much pondering, head scratching, and eager debate. The many interpretations and explanations I have managed to unearth, all have some basis in fact.
Dictionary of English Surnames by P.H. Reaney" states as follows:-
Romance of Names" by Ernest Weekley, M.A. (Published 1922)
(p.193) may sometimes represent Naime, the Nestor of Old French epic
and the sage counselor of Charlamagne". Page 193 reads thus :-
History of Surnames of the British Isles" by C. L'Estrange Ewen"
(published 1968) gives the following explanation:-
A Norman example is Beaufitz or Beavis (beau-fils "son-in-law").
Surnames from Race or Sept. Many foreigners settling down in a new country, speaking figuratively, were labeled with their nationality; thus an Englishman venturing into Cambria was called Sais, the Irishman Gwyddel, and so on, and such descriptions, in some cases, have become fixed, as is evidenced by the great number of persons bearing the surnames Welsh, Scott, etc. A series of examples of descriptions from nationalities are shown of pp. 142-6, 152-5, some other surnames of this type derived from counties being : Cornish, Devenish, and Kentish; and from places Blythman, Chesterman, and Penkethman."
The name was bestowed by King Richard II to one of his manservants saying "and this shall be thy name". Language being very broad in those days, it was written phonetically and came out as Neame. All attempts to locate this book have failed, however, my husband still remembers me rushing home to tell him all about it.
It has also been suggested over the years, that Thomas Neame c1400 originally came from Neamestown in County Wexford, Ireland, and John Neame, tanner and merchant adventuer was tried in the English High Court for Piracy. The map below may give some credence to both these theories.
As we examine the map carefully, we see a reference in the bottom RH corner to the "Landing of 'Strongbow' A.D.1170 and "Richard II A.D.1394/9"
If we reflect upon this for a moment, this would in fact correspond with the sudden appearance of Thomas Neame in Kent c1400.
It is quite possible that Thomas was an Irishman and may have been in service to the King, who then, bestowed upon him a new "name". For a long time it has been a theory of mine that his original name may have been Niahm/Niam. As we examine Reaney's research, we notice that the earliest reference to Neme/Neame date to Richard le Naim 1170-8, and end with John Naym 1431. Our own John Neame died 1486. The names in his references also correspond with the names in the early part of our family tree - i.e. Richard, John, Henry.
In an e-mail
correspondence from John Neame (dated 12th September 2000), who inherited
Alan's research papers and data, he states the following:-
The reference to nain meaning dwarf I feel does not apply, as most of the Neame's are very tall. In my husbands family, all the men are over six feet tall except my husband who is 5' 11". Even considering the diet of the times, and being mindful that people would not have been very tall anyway, it is hardly likely that the rest of the population would have been taller than the Neame's, so as to refer to them as "dwarf'(unless it was meant as a joke).
We are very grateful to Alan Neame (family historian and founding member of the Kent Genealogical Society), for the thirty years of research that he did into the family history. It is really thanks to Alan that any of us are aware of the others' existence. Alan travelled the world meeting people and recording their data for the benefit of all of us.