This very unusual and interesting name is of early medieval English origin, from the nickname or byname 'Brown John', probably given in the first instance to distinguish a particular bearer of the very popular male personal name 'John'. The name 'Brownjohn' derives from the Middle English 'brun', brown, referring to the colour of a person's hair, complexion, or clothing, with the given name 'John', which is from the Hebrew name 'Yochanan', translating as 'Jehovah has favoured (me with a son)' or 'may Jehovah favour (this child): This was adopted into Latin as Johannes, and became an extremely popular given name throughout Europe, due largely to the fame of St.John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, as well as other of the nearly one thousand saints of the name. Similar formations found in medieval England include Adam Brounadam (1329, Essex) and Henrie Horerobyn (Grey Robin) (1596, Devon). The marriage of Henry Brownjohn and Eleanor Swetenham was recorded in Cheshire in 1720. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Browneion, which was dated 1349, Documents from the Essex Public Records Office, during the reign of King Edward 111, 'The Father of the Navy', 1327-1377. 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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