This interesting surname was originally a byname for a person of wealth. A penny in Anglo-Saxon and later England, when coins were few, had great purchasing power, and could well be applied to people of substance. The word penny derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "peni(n)g", penny, and is cognate with the Old High German "pfenning" and the Old Norse "penningr". As a surname Penny had clearly emerged by the beginning of the 13th Century (see below), and further early recordings include, Gileburtus Penning, mentioned in the Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire, dated 1204, and in the records of the Shropshire Assize Court Rolls of 1221, a William Peny comes to notice. Variant spellings of the surname include Penney, Pennie and Pennings. An early registration in London Church Registers was for the marriage of Anthony Penny and Arabella Turnor on April 20th 1625, at St. Giles' Cripplegate. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ralph Penig, which was dated 1191, in the "Pipe Rolls of Huntingdonshire", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "Richard the Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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