Recorded in many spellings as shown below, this is an English medieval surname. It Is topographical for someone who lived in a low-lying marshy area. The derivation is from the old English pre 7th century word "foenn", which was the East Saxon form of the word "fenn or venn", meaning marsh or bog. In the modern idiom the spellings include Fenn, Venn, Vaune, Vance, Vanns, Van, the diminutive Vannet, as well as tribal or clan spellings such as Fenning and Fanning. Amongst the early examples of namebearers recorded in surviving church registers are Alice Fan who married Thomas Preston on October 8th 1593 at St. Gregory's church, Norwich, John Vannet, christened at St James Clerkenwell, in the city of London, on July 18th 1696, and Robert Fann, the son of William and Ann who was christened on January 13th 1705 at St. Mary's church, Norwich. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John del Fan. This was dated 1199, in the Memoranda Roll of the county of Essex, during the reign of King Richard 1st of England, and known as "The Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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