This rare and unusual surname is one of those which is widely known but rarely recorded. It would seem to derive from a solitary solicitor called 'Prestriohan' (see below) who practised in lincoln in the 13th century. He himself must have taken the name from the fable of a great and wise priest-king who ruled (it is said) in central Asia in the 10th century. Apparently a forged letter was circulated in Europe between 1165 and 1177, purporting to come from him, and it is said 'caused at least one English child to be christened after him'.Perhaps not surprisingly the name developed several spellings including Prettjohn, Prettejohns, Prettyjohns, etc, but all are now rare. Examples of the surname recording include in 1530 ' item paid to Petit-john and his fellawe, in reward by the Kinges commandment', whilst in 1805 Charles Pettyjohns was christened at St Botolphs without, London, on April 3rd of that year, and on March 5th 1813, Nathaniel Prettyjohns was a witness at St Peters Church, Huddersfield, Yorkshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Prestriohan, which was dated 1219, in the pipe rolls of the city of Lincoln, 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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