Recorded in the modern spellings of Northern and Northen, this is an English surname of ancient origins. It derives from the pre 7th century "nor pern" and does literally mean "a man from the North". That said whilst North will usually describe somebody from an area above "The Midlands," it may not necessarily be somewhere specific like the North of England or Scotland, and could have been descriptive for a person who lived "to the north of a village (or town)". It may also have been a descrptive nickname for a true Northerner as in the recording of William le Northerne in the register of the abbey of Ramsey in Huntingdonshire in 1252, whilst William Northerne in the Subsidy Tax rolls of Suffolk in 1327 was clearly a man of substance, who was probably local. After seven or more centuries and roughly thirty generations, it is almost impossible to say exactly what a name meant at the time when it was first given or taken. Not surprisingly perhaps the surname is usually found towards the south of England, whilst Southern, its exact opposite, is particularly popular in Yorkshire and widely recorded inte Poll Tax register of the county in 1379.
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