When the Christian soldiers, known as "The Crusaders" returned home from their many attempts in the 12th century to 'free' the Holy Land, and specifically Jerusalem, from the infidels, they took to naming their male off-spring with Hebrew names. These, Adam, Thomas, Isaac, Abraham, as examples, replaced the popular Norman and Anglo-Saxon names such as William and Richard, and in due course they became surnames in their own right. However although as surnames these were not (in the British Isles) Jewish, when in 1290 Edward 1st expelled all Jews from Britain, their popularity waned. Curiously the Puritans of the 17th century adopted Hebrew names, and Oliver Cromwell himself personally revoked the order of exile in 1655, allowing Jewish adherents to return to Britain. The 'Benjamin' surname, like those above, is Hebrew in origin, but English as a surname, and maybe carried either by Christians or Jews. The name translates from the Hebrew as 'the son of the right hand', and according to the late Professor Reaney, was recorded as a surname in the counties of Berkshire, Wiltshire and Cambridge, before the year 1250, although he quotes no examples. Early recordings do however include Caterina Benjamini of Suffolk in the 1273 Hundred Rolls and Robert Benjamin of Bedford, also in the Hundred Rolls in the same year, but this time in Bedford. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Beniamin, which was dated 1166, the pipe rolls of the county of Norfolk, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as 'The church builder', 1154 - 1189. 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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