Recorded as Swan, Swann, and Swayne, this interesting name has at least three possible origins and two nationalities. Where English the derivation is from the pre 7th century Olde English word "swon." This originally described a swineherd, and later became cross-linked with the word swan, which was pronounced exactly the same and described the bird. Hence in medieval times the name may also have described a an swan-upper or keeper of swans. The second possibility is that the name is locational, and describes somebody who lived at a place with the sign of the swan. This may have been an inn or alehouse, but could equally just have been a house name in the days before houses were numbered. Amongst the very earliest of sample recordings are those of John Swann of Shropshire in 1221, Gilbert Swan of Cambridge, in 1260, whilst Walter le Swon and Stephen le Swan both appear in the Subsidy Rolls of the county of Sussex in 1298. The exact origin of the name cannot be distinguished in the above entries. Finally the name, originally as Swayne, but now also recorded with both Swan and Swann, has been found in Ireland since around the 14th century. In this case the claim is that it is a development of the Norse-Viking word "swein" meaning servant, although certainly since about 1640 as Swan and Swann it has been widely recorded in Northern Ireland, where it is clearly an import from England. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Hugo Swan in the pipe rolls of the county of Suffolk in the year 1176. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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