This interesting surname is the patronymic form of Swan, which derived from the Old English pre 7th Century "Swan" or "Swon" meaning swan, and originated as a nickname for a pure or graceful person, qualities attributed to the swan. In some cases it may have been a house name for someone who lived at a house with sign of a swan. It may also have derived from the Middle English "swain" meaning a herdsman, swineherd or peasant and would have been an occupational name for a servant. The personal name appears in the Pipe Rolls of Cumberland in 1177, "Suannus faber", and in the Assize Court Rolls of Yorkshire in 1219, "Suan'Filius Arkill". The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 14th Century, (see below). Early recordings of the surname from London church registers include; Elizabeth Swanson, who married John Cobham, on April 3rd 1559, at St. Mary Somerset; on June 1st 1561, Elin Swanson married John Newes, at St. Mary Woolchurch Haw; and the marriage of Jane Swanson to Christopher Beard took place in St. Thomas the Apostle on June 29th 1572. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Matilda Swanson, which was dated 1379, The Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Richard 11, "Richard of Bordeaux", 1377 - 1399. 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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