Recorded in many forms including Britain, Breton, Britney, Brittney, Britagne, Brittoner and others, this is an ancient locational surname. It is regarded as English, although of French origins. It literally describes a person who came from the region of France called Brittany, but for the purposes of surnames applied to Normandy and other areas as well, who settled in the British Isles. Initially this settlement applied mainly to soldiers of William, Duke of Normandy, who after his conquest of England in 1066, were granted lands by him for their services.After 1087 and the death of William, - Brittany, Normandy, and later Aquataine, were areas of France held by the English kings, and this continued in one form or another as late as Queen Mary of England 1554 - 1558. She was blamed for the loss of Calais, the last English possession on French soil. Meanwhile English people also moved to France in those four centuries and were given surnames such as d'Anglais, Angles, or Britsch. It was a two way international migration. English examples of recordings taken from surviving rolls include John de Brytaygn of the county of Cambridge in 1273, and Alicia de Britten of Yorkshire in the Poll Tax rolls of 1379. Later recordings from the city of London, England, church registers, include Elizabeth Brytayne who married Roger Whitall at the church of St Giles Cripplegate, on May 18th 1572, Michael Breton whose daughter Eliza was christened at the church of St Olave, Old Jewry, on October 14th 1804, and Thomas Britney whose daughter Harriette was christened at Christ Church, Spitalfields, on June 21st 1846. Education as we know it today became a fact for most people in the Western Hemisphere from about 1860 onwards. Before that only about ten percent could read or write, at a time when local dialects were very 'thick' and often another language. As a result the spelling of surnames over the centuries has been a lottery.
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