This interesting and unusual surname, recorded in English church registers from the mid 16th Century under the variant spellings swyfen, Swiffin and Swiffan is of English locational origin and is either a dialectal variant of Swinfen a place in the parish of Wreford, Staffordshire, or from a now lost place believed to have been in the south east of England. The staffordshire place, initially recorded as Swyneffen in the 1232 Azzie Court Rolls of that county, derives its name from the Old English pre 7th Century "swin", swine, plus "fen", fen or marsh. Richard Swinfen and Anne Hill were married in Lichfield, Staffordshire, in 1552. Enforced "clearing" and dispersal of the former inhabitants to make way for sheep pasture at the height of the wool trade in the 14th Century was a prime cause of the "lost" village phenomenon and the most likely first element of a place called Swiffen would be the Old English personal name Swaef plus "fen". On July 12th 1641, Richard Swyfen and Christian James were married in Lambourn, Berkshire, and on September 4th 1642, Phillip Swiffen was christened in Bexley, kent. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Anne Swiffen, (marriage to Edmund Fenne), which was dated January 21st 1559, Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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