Recorded as Chanson, Chansonne, and the diminutives Chansoneau and Chansonnau, this is a famous French surname. It is or rather was in medieval times, occupational and as such literally described a professional singer, one probably permanently attached to a monastery choir, or to one of the travelling theatres, which were very popular in those ancient times. Occupational surnames, although amongst the first surnames to be created, usually only became hereditary when a son followed a father into the same profession. If either there was no son, or the son choose some other career, the name would die out. This helps to account for the popularity or otherwise of occupational surnames. The fact that this surname is relatively popular in France even today, suggests that it may have been a hereditary secular position within the church, and similar to the Irish 'erenagh.' An erenagh family held the position of landlords on behalf of the church almost in perpetuity. Early examples of surviving French church register recordings, most were destroyed during the famous Revolution of 1792, include Thomas Chanson and his wife Jeanne at St Pierre church, Chenille-Change, Maine et Loire, on December 2nd 1682, and Pierre Chansone at Grenoille, Charente-Maritime, on April 4th 1812.
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