Origins of the surname

The earliest record I have found to the surname ANNAL in the records of South Ronaldsay, Orkney, is in a rental of the lands of James Stewart, dated 1735. Amongst the tenants listed is a James ANNALL of Smiddie [= Smiddy, a farm in the Grimness district]. His name does not appear on any earlier lists of names including an inventory (dated 1711) of ‘Lands belonging to Sir James Stewart’. However, this earlier list includes the name of James ANNAN in Pool and this surname (sometimes recorded as ANNAND) is found in South Ronaldsay as early as 1601. Although there is no firm evidence for this, I feel quite certain that the name ANNAL is simply a variant of ANNAN(D).

There are two main arguments in favour of this theory: the first is based on a simple analysis of the various surviving lists of South Ronaldsay names and other documents such as parish registers, testaments and inventories. The name ANNAN(D) occurs regularly up until the 1711 list but not at all after that. In contrast, the name ANNAL(L) does not appear until the 1735 rental yet by the time of the 1821 census (the earliest complete listing of the inhabitants of South Ronaldsay) it has become one of the most common surnames of the island with nearly seventy individuals listed. This would be a quite remarkable increase if we were to believe that the name was new to South Ronaldsay just eighty six years earlier. It also seems highly likely that James ANNAN of Pool mentioned in the 1711 list is actually the same person as James ANNALL of Smiddie, listed in the Rental twenty four years later; the farms of Pool and Smiddy are right next to each other, only a few hundred yards apart.

The second argument is based on the names themselves and the local pronunciation. While it might seem strange that a name with a ‘hard’ ending such as ANNAN(D) should evolve into the much softer ending in ANNAL there is a direct precedent in the very same change occurring with another South Ronaldsay surname. Admittedly this happened a hundred or so years later but it is a well documented fact that the name RUSSLAND, which had been fairly common in South Ronaldsay in the eighteenth century, gradually evolved to RUSSELL, first in its pronunciation and eventually in its spelling.

If this theory is correct then the ancestor of all the Orkney ANNALs (including all those who have left the Islands and settled in Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America) was the Reverend James ANNAND who came to Orkney in the middle of the sixteenth century.

……more to follow soon!

Dave Annal, January 2002, Watford, England

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