This is an Anglo-Scottish surname, the origins in both countries being the same. Of all the great medieval guilds that of the Worshipful Company of Skinners was amongst those of highest honour, such was the importance of the skill. The derivation is from the Norse-Viking pre 5th century word "skinn" meaning a hide or pelt, and perhaps not surprisingly the surname is one of the first recorded as a hereditary occupational name. Early examples of these recordings include Ralph Le Skinnere, in the deeds of the county of Hertfordshire, England, for the year 1269, whilst in Scotland Stephan Skynnar is recorded as holding lands in Inverness in 1361. It is said that in the British directory known as the National Biography there are at least fifteen entries for the surname of Skinner. Amongst these entries are Bishop Robert Skinner (1591 - 1670), who was committed to the Tower of London in 1641, but survived to continue preaching into old age, the Rev. John Skinner (1721 - 1807), who was author, song writer and poet, as well as being a minister in Aberdeenshire, and a friend of Robert Burns, whilst James Skinner (1778 - 1841), formed the famous Skinner's Horse, part of the original Indian Army. In the census of the original colony of Virginia, New England, taken on February 16th 1623, appears the name of John Skinner of London. As the colony only dated from 1607, this makes him one of the very earliest of all the settlers in the New World. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was often 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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