This interesting surname is of Old Breton-Irish origin, and derives from the Celtic personal name "Brian", of truly ancient ancestry and believed to contain the element "bre", meaning hill or "brigh", strong. Breton bearers of the name were among the Normans who invaded England in 1066, and they later went on to invade and settle in Ireland in the 12th Century, where the name became confused with a native Irish version of it, borne in particular by one of the greatest of Irish septs, descendants of Brian Boru, who rose to the high kingship of Ireland in 1002. This native Irish name had also been borrowed by Vikings, who introduced it independently in North West England before the Norman Conquest. Ralph Brian is noted in the 1205 Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire, and Bennet Briant is listed in the Subsidy Rolls of Suffolk (1524). In the modern idiom the name can be found as Bryan, Brian, Brien, Bryant, Brient and Briant. On January 13th 1605, John Bryant married Elizabeth Cornishe at the Church of St. John's, Hackney, London. The American poet William Cullen Bryant (1794 - 1878) came of a New England family, being descended from Stephen Bryant, who had settled in Plymouth Colony in 1632. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ralph Brien, which was dated 1160, in the "Feudal Documents from the Abbey of Bury St. Edmund's", Suffolk, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 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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