This interesting and unusual name is of medieval English origin, and is found chiefly in Devon and Cornwall. The derivation is from the Middle English given name "Jan", a variant of John, from the Hebrew, meaning, "the Lord is gracious", or "Grace of the Lord", brought back to England by the Crusaders, where it began to spread in the 12th Century. It's earliest form in Europe was the Latin "Johannes", and was not specialized as a female given name until the 17th Century. In the modern idiom the variants include Jane, Jan, Jain(e), Jean, Jenn(e) and Genn, and the patronymic forms, meaning "son of Jan", Ja(y)nes, Jeynes, Jean(e)s, Jeens and Jenns. An early recording of the name is in Oxfordshire, of John Jane (1548). Among the recordings in Devon are the christening of Elizabeth Jeans in Exeter in 1676, and the marriage of Richard Jeans and Anne Systen in Powderham on January 1st 1679. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Simon Ians, which was dated 1297, in the "Ministers Accounts of the Earldom of Cornwall", 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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