This interesting and unusual surname is of early medieval English origin, and is a topographical name for a "dweller by the fen". The derivation of the name is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "fenn", marsh, bog; the forms with the voiced initial consonant "v" are characteristic of south-western dialects of Middle English, and the "a" is from the fusion of the Middle English preposition "at"; hence, "at the fen". Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Richard ate Fanne is noted in the 1297 Ministers Accounts of the Earldom of Cornwall, and Henry atte Vanne is listed in the 1341 Nonarum Inquisitiones of Sussex. In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Avann, Avenn, Avanne and Avenne. Recordings of the surname from English Church Registers include: the christening of Adrian, son of Richard Avann, at Iden, Sussex, on March 19th 1585; the christening of William, son of William Avann, is recorded at the same place, on August 9th 1585; and the marriage of John Avann and Ann Wells on February 7th 1704, at St. Andrew's, Holborn, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Avanne, which was dated 1525, in the "Wills of Sussex", during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Good King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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