HANNA was originally of Scottish origin, and taken to Ireland by settlers during the seventeenth century, where it is numerous in North East Ulster. The Gaelic form of O'hAnnaidh is one of the few Scottish 'O' names. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. Early records of the name mention Robert Hanna and Jane Styward, who were married in London in the year 1622. John, son of John Hanna was baptised at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1677. The name has many variant spellings which include Hannah, and Hannay. It is believed a large number of Hannas and Hannahs are of Scottish descent, probably variants of the surnam Hannay. The name is borne in the Bible by the mother of Samuel, and there is a tradition (unsupported by biblical evidence) that it was the name of the mother of the Virgin Mary. Gilbert de Hannethe or de Hahanith was recorded in Wigtons at the end of the 13th century, and may have been an early bearer, if not the first of the name. John of Hanna is recorded as the master of a ship belonging to the King of Scotland in the year 1424. Surnames as we recognise them today are believed to have been introduced by the Normans after the Invasion of 1066. The first mention of such names appears in the Domesday Book and they were progressively adopted between the 11th and 15th centuries. It was the nobles and upper classes who first assumed a second name, setting them apart from the common people who continued to use only the single name given to them at birth. It was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that is became common practice to use a secondary name, originally a name reflecting the place of birth, a nickname, an occupational name or a baptismal name which had been passed on from a parent to the child, as an additional means of identification.
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