Recorded in many spellings as shown below, this interesting and unusual name is of medieval English origin. The derivation is from the Middle English given name Jan, a variant of John, itself from the Hebrew 'Yochan' meaning, "The Lord is gracious". This name now the mopst popular as a surname in the whole of Christendom, was brought back to Europe by Crusaders knights and other pilgrims returning from their various expeditions to free the Holy Land from the Muslim. All were unsuccessful, but this did not dent the enthusiasm for such names. In this case the earliest form in Europe was the Latinized Johannus. In the modern idiom there are said to be over one thousand spellings which include Jan, Jain(e), Jean, Jenn(e) and Genn, and the patronymic forms, meaning "son of Jan", such as Jaynes, Jeynes, Jeanes, Jeens, Jenns, Janson, Ianson, I'anson, Jansen, Jonson, Johnson, Yanson, Yansons, and others. Early examples of recordings include Anne Janson on September 6th 1563 at Little Hampston, Devon, and that of Adrianus Jane, on November 24th 1577, at Newton Abbott. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Simon Ians. This was dated 1297, in the "Ministers Accounts of the earldom of Cornwall", during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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