This is a Gaelic surname of great complexity, and it can be of Viking, Olde English origins, or sometimes Middle English origins! Recorded in many forms thoughout the British Isles, for the purpose of this research the spellings are Swan, Swain, and Swayne, with the later McSwan. However spelt there is strong circumstantial evidence that for most name holders the origin is pre 8th century Norse-Viking. It is not generally known that the Vikings conquered most of Ireland, and the Isle of Man before they launched their attacks upon England and Scotland. The Norse origination is from the word 'swein', which had a number of meanings including friend, partner, (in a business sense), and servant, in a managerial sense, as foreman or leader. What is certain is that the name, was one of the earliest recorded in all three countries. In both Scotland and Ireland the spelling as 'Swan', can either be a form of Swain or Swayne or it maybe an English introduction in the 17th century. In this case the origination is from the word 'swon', a job descriptive name for a herdsman or possibly a keeper of swans. The Gaelic 'McSwan' is well recorded in Lanarkshire, Scotland, and in Donegal and Dublin in Ireland, but only from the 19th century. Early examples of the surname recording include Henricus Swani of Perth, Scotland, in 1130, Walter Swayne, the coroner of County Offally, Ireland, in 1297, William Swyne of Gaitmilk, Scotland, in 1538, and Angus McSwan of Glasgow, who married Mary McKecknie on December 6th 1804. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Osgot Sveyn, which was dated 1045, the Anglo-Saxon wills register for Cambridge, during the reign of King Edward of England, known as 'The Confessor', 1042 - 1066. 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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