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This interesting and unusual surname has two distinct possible sources, each with its own history and derivation. Firstly, Nathan may be of Anglo-Saxon origin, and a locational name from any of the various places in the west of England which have as their component elements the Olde English pre 7th Century "neat", ox, cattle, and "tun", farm, enclosure. These places include: Natton, a hamlet east of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, recorded as "Natone" in the Domesday Book of 1086; Netton at Durnford in Wiltshire, appearing as "Netetun" in the 1242 Feet of Fines for Wiltshire; and Notton in Wiltshire and Dorset, both recorded as "Natton" and "Netton" in the Feet of Fines for the respective counties, dated 1345 to 1350. The second possibility is that Nathan derives from the Hebrew male given name "Natan", "Given by God", borne by a minor biblical prophet in the Second Book of Samuel. Rare personal names, such as Ebenezer, Zebedee and Nathan, were adopted in the 17th Century by Puritans, and other nonconformists, who looked more and more to the Bible as the sole authority. This name was also popular from an early date among Ashkenazic peoples. On October 29th 1634, Richard, son of Edward Nathan, was christened at St. Mary's, Wilton by Salisbury, Wiltshire. Occasionally, when found in Ireland, Nathan is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "O'Neachtain", descendant of Neachtan, a personal byname from the East Celtic "nectos", pure, bright. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Davy Netton, which was dated October 15th 1555, witness at the christening of his son, Richard, at Broad Chalk, Wiltshire, 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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