This interesting surname is of English origin, and is derived from the normal medieval vernacular form of the female given name "Helen", originally from the Greek "Helene", which is of uncertain etymology, but thought to be from "helane", torch. The popularity of the name in Europe is due to St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, who was credited with finding the "True Cross"; according to legend she was of British origin, said to have been the daughter of a king; the name was particularly popular in the iddle Ages. This is one of a handful of surnames surviving which were derived from the name of the first bearer's mother. This is because European society has been patriarchal throughout history, and as a result, the given name of the male head of the household has been handed on as a distinguishing name to successive generations. The surname was first recorded in the late 13th Century (see below), and other early recordings include: Walter Eleyn (1275, in the Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire), and William Helyns (1332, in the Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire). Recordings from London Church Registers include: the marriage of Edward Hellen and Joane Scott on July 22nd 1638, at St. Bride's, Fleet Street; the christening of John Hellen on January 27th 1670, at St. Helen's, Bishopsgate; and Isaac Hellen, who was recorded on March 30th 1670, also at St. Helen's, Bishopsgate. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Helene, which was dated 1275, in the "Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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