The Polish surname of NEHLS was a baptismal name meaning 'the son of Cornelius'. The name was originally an old Roman family name Cornelius which was borne by a 3rd century Christian Saint and Pope. The cathedral of St. Cornelius at Aachen was a centre of Pilgrimage and the given name was especially popular in this area in the Middle Ages. This is not an English surname, and no trace of the name can be found on English soil in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, the period when font names were being turned into permanent surnames. The name was probably brought from Holland in the late 14th century. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name. The name has numerous variant spellings which include CORNELY, QUERNEL, KORNEL, NELES, NELLEN, NILLES, NEHLSEN, and NELIUS, to name but a few. The earliest Polish surnames were patronymic. The personal names from which they were derived were mainly Slavonic, but as the Middle Ages progressed, traditional Slavic given names, began to give way to saint's names, mainly of Latin origin. Surnames derived from Slavonic personal names are of early origin, and tend to be borne by aristocratic families. Many Polish people acquired their surnames by reason of former residence in a town or village. American surnames comprise of surnames found in every country throughout the world, many with differences in spelling not seen in the old country due to the inability of clerks and Government officials to record correctly the names given them by unschooled immigrants not familiar with the English, French, German, Portugese, Dutch or Spanish languages currently used in the Port of entry or the part of the country where they settled. When an immigrant arriving in America with little knowledge of English gave his name verbally to the officials, it was written down by them as they heard it, and being thereby 'official' it was often accepted by the immigrant himself as the correct American rendering of his name.
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