Sometimes confused with the surname 'Leonard', this surname is in fact quite different. It is Spanish but could be said to be of Roman origins, in that it derives from the city of Leon in North West Spain, named after a 'legion'. In the times of the Roman occupation of Spain upto the year 410 a.d., this place was the headquarters of the 7th Legio Gemina, the modern spelling being simply a short form of these elements. In some cases the surname may derive from the French city of Lyon, also occupied by the Roman army, and whilst this is quite possible, it is not a proven source of the surname. The early examples of the surname recording suggest that nameholders were people of estates and property, the preposition 'de' being used in most parts of northern Europe in the medieval period and later, as a mark of status. Examples of the surname recording taken from authentic church registers include Mateo Leon at San Nicholas de Bari, Valladolid, Spain, on September 29th 1698, Richard Leon, on October 8th 1973 at San Francisco, California, and Frank Leon, at Colton, San Bernardino, California, on July 10th 1911. The coat of arms granted in Spain, has the distinctive blazon of a silver field, charged with a red lion rampant. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Pedro de Leon, which was dated April 5th 1580, at Santa Maria Magdalena, Valladolid, Spain, during the reign of King Philip 11 of Spain, Emperor of Mexico, 1556 - 1598. 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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