This rare and interesting name is of medieval English origin and is locational from a place called Matfen in Northumberland, which is first recorded in the Pipe Rolls of that county in 1159 as 'Matefen', in the Charter Rolls, circa 1190, as 'Matesfen', in the Fees of 1236, as 'Matfen' and in the Charter Rolls of 1291 as 'Matheen'. The derivation is from an Old English personal name 'Matla' with 'fen', a marsh. The name Matfin, Matphen and Matfen is exclusive to Northumberland and Durham, with no records in Cumbria and only one in Yorkshire. The following examples illustrate the name development after 1558 (see below), Ellinor Matphen (1579, Whickham, Durham), Francis Matfin christened on December 15th 1654 and Stephen Matfin on December 19th 1670, both in South Shields, Durham. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Matfen (christening), which was dated January 24th 1577, St. Nicholas, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, 'Good Queen Bess', 1558-1603. 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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