This interesting surname is of regional origins. It is usually accepted that the name derives from the Old French 'Bretagne' and as such describes a former inhabitant of the province of Brittany. Many Bretons came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066, and these people form the basis of the present name holders. However there is a possibility that the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Eastern and Southern England in the 7th century, also referred to the native English as 'Britons', and it maybe that some of the present nameholders are linear descendants of the ancient tribes.What is certainly true is that the modern surname has a high concentration in the West Country. The various name spellings include Britain, Britten, Brittan, Brittin, Brittain, Briton and Britney. Examples of the early recordings include Thomas de Brytannia in the 1297 rolls of the Duchy of Cornwall, Giffard le Bretun of Buckingham in 1273, John de Bretayne in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Cambridge, Alicia de Brittin in the 1379 Poll Tax rolls of Yorkshire, and Elias de Britton in the same Yorkshire rolls. Other examples taken from early church recordings include William Bryttayne who married Elizabeth Cook at Betley, Staffordshire, on November 28th 1559, and Edward Brittain christened on November 17th 1630 at St. Mary Whitechapel, Stepney. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John de Bretagne, which was dated 1270, a witness at the Stafford Assize court, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as 'The lion of England', 1273 - 1307. 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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