This interesting surname is of topographical origin for someone who lived in a place where there was an abundance of ferns. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "fearn" meaning fern (a collective noun); hence "dweller among the ferns". Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. The surname was first recorded in the latter half of the 13th Century (see below). One Joceus de Ferne appears in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex (1296). In the modern idiom the surname has many variant spellings including Fern, Fearne, Farn, Fairn, Feirn, Vern, Verne, and Varne. The forms with voiced initial consonant "v-" represent south-western Middle English developments. On February 11th 1599, the marriage of John Fearn and Chateristin Shimpson took place at St. Matthew Friday Street, London. An interesting namebearer, John Fearn (1768 - 1837), was a philosopher, who published "a Manual of the Physiology of Mind" in 1829. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John de la Ferne, which was dated 1275, in the "Pipe Rolls of Worcestershire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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