This interesting surname is a variant of Frain which is of early medieval English and Norman origin, and is a topographical name for someone who lived near an ash tree or ash wood. The name is derived from the Old French "fraisne, fresne", ash (tree), from the Latin "fraxinus", and was introduced into England by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names. The name development since 1156 (see below) includes: Thomas del Freisne (1206, Herefordshire), Peter de Frane (1228, London), Richard del Frene (1271, Staffordshire), Cristina Freen (1275, Worcestershire) and John del Freyn (1280, Somersetshire). The modern surname can be found as Frean, Frain, Frayn(e), Freen, Freyne, (De)Fraine and Defraine. Among the recordings in London are the marriages of Elizabeth Defraine and Thomas Jeroms on March 8th 1761 at St. James, Westminster, and of Thomas Defraine and Elizabeth Millner on December 19th 1766 at St. Clement Danes, Westminster. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Fraisn, which was dated 1156, in the "Pipe Rolls of 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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