This unusual name originated as a nickname from the Old French, "pinson" or "pinchon" meaning "a finch". This small singing bird was a symbol of lightheartedness and gaiety. "Gai comme un pinson" (Quote from Daufat, meaning as gay as a finch). It is first recorded as a sobriquet, or personal name, in the Oxfordshire Seals of 1121 - "Hugo filius, (son of) Pinchonis, filius Pincun". The surname first appears in 1166. Alternate spellings have included Pynson (1296), Pyncshoun (1310) and Pynsent (1524). In the modern idiom, the name has seven spelling variations:- Pinchen, Pinchin(g), Pinchon, Pinshon, Pinson and Pinsent. One William Pinsen was an early English emigrant to the American colonies; he is recorded as living at "Elizabeth Cittie" in Virginia in the census taken on February 16th 1623. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ralph Pincun, which was dated 1166, in the "Red Book of the Exchequer at Lincolnshire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder", 1154 - 1189. 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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