Recorded in several spellings including Chaplain, Chapling, Chaplyn, Caplen, Kaplin and others, this is a surname of French origins, also well recorded in England. It derives from the old Norman French word "caplain" meaning a charity priest. Such a man was specifically employed by the parish or diocese to sing mass daily on behalf of the souls of the dead! However as the Catholic Church after the 12th century did not allow its encumbents to marry (It had previously), the name cannot apply under normal circumstances to the descendants of a charity priest, unless such a position was secular and outside the usual church hierarchy, and we have no evidence that this was the case. This suggests that perhaps the name related to either a servant of a caplain or perhaps was a nickname for someone who adopted priestly attitudes. Either way it is an ancient name from thevery beginings of surname adoption. Early examples include Thomas le Chapelyn in the tax rolls known as the Feet of Fines for Essex in 1241, while Nicholas le Chapelain was listed in the Assize Rolls of Cambridgeshire in 1260. Isacke Chaplin was one of the first settlers in the New World. He was granted 200 acres by patent, in the territory of Great Weyonoke, Barbados in 1626. Jeremiah Chaplin booked a ticket aboard the "Joseph and Ann" for Carolina, the New World in January 1678. The most famous namebearer was Sir Charles Spenser Chaplin (Charlie Chaplin), (1889 - 1977), English comedian and film actor. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Capelein. This was dated 1203, in the "Curia Regis 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 sometimes 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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