NOTES ON SURNAMES (HULL) 38
NELLIST I’m still struggling to find the meaning of this name. My original thought was that it might derive from the Irish surname Nelis or Nellis, but I no longer think this likely.
Nellist is historically associated with the old North Riding of Yorkshire, that district called Cleveland (now a separate county). The parish of Danby in Cleveland appears to have been a stronghold of the name, and the parish register records the baptism of a Thomas Nellest (sic) in April of 1586. The registers date back to the previous year.
George and Maria Nellist were recusants (i.e., Catholics) in Danby in 1691.
The name is in Hull, featuring in the civil registers from the 1830s
One possible explanation of the surname is that it could derive from the male given name Nell, as does the surname Nelson. Nell, from the old Irish name Niall (modern English form Neil) was probably introduced into England by Danes, who were established in Ireland for centuries in the early middle ages. This might give us a surname Nellis, as Will gives the surname Willis. Then we would need to explain the final -t.