This very unusual surname is to the surprise of most people, Scottish and specifically Shetland. Indeed the people of Shetland often claim not to be Scottish at all, which is probably correct, many of them being of Norse-Viking origins. In this case the name is locational, but not from 'Mainland Britain', but from the island of Mainland, the largest of the Shetland Islands! The origin of the island name, and hence the surname, is from the pre 7th century 'magno', itself probably a development of the Latin 'magnus' meaning large, plus the Norse-Olde English 'landa'. The name is first found in Scottish charters in 1550, see below, however almost all recordings come from the parish of Dunrossness, described as being of 32,162 acres, and a declining population of about 2975. How the 'Mainlands' obtained their surname is not clear, but presumably at some point in (probably) the 17th century, a group of people from another part of Mainland moved to Dunrossness, and were given this name as identification, by the local population. The early recordings include Olla Mainland, who married Katherine Atkin at Lerwick, on September 16th 1708, Janet Mainland, who married William McPheson (as spelt) at Dunrossness on December 16th 1755, and George Mainland, the son of James and Anne Mainland, christened at Dunrossness on July 6th 1864. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Manus Mainland, which was dated 1550, a witness at Kirkwall, (The records of the Earldom of Orkney,) during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542 - 1587. 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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