Recorded as Brown, the mainly now Irish Browne, and the rare form of Brawn, this is a surname of the British Isles, and one of the most popular. It has two possible origins. The first is a nickname from the pre 7th century word "brun", which is also the same word in Old French, and is purported to have described a person with a brown face. If so this was probably ethnic, and described one of the Old English or Welsh. Secondly the surname may originate from the personal name "Bruni", recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086 as Brun and Brunus. In Ireland the Browne's of Galway are descendants of a 12th century Norman knight called "Le Brun", whilst the Browne's of Killarney are descended from an Elizabethan Englishman. Other recordings include Peter Brown, one of the passengers on the famous pilgrim ship the Mayflower in 1620. He was one of the few survivors of the first year in the Virginia Colony, Lancemlot Brown, later the famous Capability Brown, was born in 1715, whilst Anne Brawn married John Mackon at St Martins in the Field, Westminster, on December 15th 1728. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William le Brun. This was dated 1169, in the Pipe Rolls of Northumberland, during the reign of King Henry 11nd, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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