This is a medieval English surname but one of truly ancient 'Viking' origins. The modern surname (in its many spellings) derives from the Norse personal name 'Asbiorn', composed of the elements 'As' meaning 'god' and 'Bjorn', - the bear. The Vikings, as befitted their warlike image, were very keen on names which indicated strength and conquest. The name was found in England well before the Norman Conquest of 1066, and was also recorded in Normandy. Perhaps this is not surprising as Normandy means 'the place of the orsemen', the 1066 Normans being the descendants of the 'land based' Vikings ofthe 8th century, who swept down through Northern Europe. These people were the 'cousins' of the 'sea' Vikings' who invaded Britain at the same period of history. In the Olde English pre 11th Century the spelling was 'Osbern' and this spelling as a given name only is recorded inthe 1086 Domesday Book. The early surname recordings include Walter Osborn of the city of Cambridge in 1310, Andrew Hosborn of Somerset in 1327, and Elena Usburne of Yorkshire in the Poll Tax Rolls of 1381. Later church recordings include Robert Osburn of Ryther, Yorkshire, on November 28th 1570, Elizabeth Osbourne, christened at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on August 1st 1663, Samuel Osborn at St. Botolphs without Aldgate, London, on February 5th 1789, and Charles Osborne, christened at Hibleton, Worcester, on March 2nd 1859. It is recorded that one of the earliest settlers in America was Jenkin Osborne of 'West and Sherlow Hundred Island', Virginia, in February 1623. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry Osbern, which was dated 1260, a witness at the Cambridge Assize Court, during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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