This interesting and unusual surname recorded in several spellings including Kenwyn, Kenwin, Kenvin, etc. is of Old Cornish origin. It is locational and is a dialectal variant of Kenwyn, a village in the county. The derivation is from the Ancient 10th century Cornish, 'Keyn', meaning a ridge, and 'gwyn', meaning white, and describing a chalk ridge. The earliest recording of this place name is in the Cornish Episcopal register of the year 1259 in the reign of King Henry 111, (1216 - 1272). The spelling was then 'Keynwen', whilst in the rolls and charters of the Duchy of Cornwall of 1363 and held by the British Museum, the spelling is Keynwyn. During the late Middle Ages it became increasingly common for people to migrate from their original birth place. This 'migration' may only have been to the next village, but there they would adopt (or be given) as their surname, the name of their original homestead, as an easy means of identification. This resulted in the wide dispersal of the name, and a diffusion of spellings. Examples of early recordings taken from church registers include John Kenwyn, the son of Marcellus and Elyzabeth Kenwyn, who was christened on 13th April 1639 at Lanreath, Cornwall, and Thomas Kenvin, christened at St Botolphs church, Aldergate, London, on August 5th 1764. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Marcellus Kenwyn, which was dated 19th July 1604, in the register of Lanreath, Cornwall, during the reign of King James I of England and V1 of Scotland, 1587 - 1625. 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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