This interesting name is of Old French origin, introduced into England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is an occupational surname for a clergyman, or, in some cases, for the servant of one, someone employed in a clergyman's household. The name derives from the Old French and Middle English term "chapelain", chantry priest, a priest endowed to sing mass daily on behalf of the souls of the dead; the ultimate derivation is from the Late Latin formation "capellanus", a derivative of "capella", originally a diminutive of "capa", hood, cloak, but later transferred to the sense "chapel, sanctuary".This was with reference to the shrine at Tours where the cloak of St. Martin was preserved as a relic. The surname from this source is first recorded at the beginning of the 13th Century, as below, and other early recordings include: Thomas de Chapelyn, in the Cambridgeshire Feet of Fines of 1241; and Nicholas le Chapelain, in the Cambridgeshire Assize Rolls of 1260. One Robert Caplin was an early emigrant to the American colonies, leaving London on the "Paule" in July 1635, bound for "Virginea". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Capelein, which was dated 1203, in the "Curia Rolls of Hampshire", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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