Thursday, 24 November 2016

Week 47: Surname Theories

There has been so much speculation and discussion on where the surname Palin originally comes from.  And we have just received a new theory.

Before we discuss the new theory, let’s re-examine the old theories.

The first and most commonly accepted theory is the name derives from Wales.  The original name was ap Heilin, “ap” meaning son of.  I have also seen is spelled as ap Heylin.  When you say it together and do not pronounce the “h” it would sound like apaylin.    If you google ap Heilin you can find a few online trees that going back to 1265 in Caernarvonshire.  Thinking that the name comes from the UK, have also found that Palin comes from “(i) "person from Palling", Norfolk ("settlement of Pælli's people") or"person from Poling", Sussex ("settlement of Pāl's people"); (ii) from the Welsh name ap Heilyn "son of Heilyn", a personal name perhaps meaning "one who serves at table"  The only problem with the above theory is it does not explain how the name was in the other countries like Sweden, and France.

The second theory is the name comes from France.  The Huguenots came to England circa 1550.  The first Huguenot Protestant church was founded by King Edward VI by a Royal Charter of 1550 in Soho Square, London.  The only problem with this theory is that we do find the name Palin registered in England before that date.

The third theory is the name comes from Sweden and it means '”dweller by a swamp or marsh''.  Again, the question arises on how would the name show up in the other countries before the earliest date recorded in Sweden.

On November 17, 2016 a new surname reference book was published.  The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland contains detailed information about the linguistic origins of more than 45,600 common and rare surnames.  (The above link will take you to a page where you could purchase the book for a mere £400.)

This theory could then answer the question on how the name showed up in so many different European countries and it also takes us the farthest back in time. And we all know the Romans were in England – but can we find any other documentation?

Quite some time ago I scanned some pages that I found on line take from the 1895 publication of the Thoresby Society and in that I found a chapter about Paulinus de Leeds written by Richard Holmes and it states therein that Paulinus de Leeds was vicar in Leeds and died in 1205.
So then I went searching more about Paulinus and what I found surprised me.  There was more than one famous Paulinus.
St. Paulinus
Paulinus was a young Roman monk at St Andrew’s Monastery in Rome. In 601 he was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to help St Augustine with the second phase of his conversion of the people of Britain.
After his arrival, Paulinus’ mission was initially in Kent, centred on Canterbury. But when King Edwin of Northumbria married Ethelburga, a Christian Kentish Princess, Paulinus was instructed to accompany her to pagan Northumbria. He was consecrated Bishop of the Northumbrians in 625.
The opportunity of a northern mission had unexpectedly presented itself. Paulinus’ first task was to convert the pagan King Edwin, hoping this would lead to an agreement which would allow him to convert Edwin’s Northumbrian subjects.
His patience was finally rewarded when the king converted and supported Paulinus by creating the Bishopric and See of York, commanding that a stone church be built. Paulinus continued his mission throughout the north – travelling, instructing and baptising people throughout the area which is now Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Tyneside, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. Wherever he went, he left his mark on the modern Church.
In recognition of Paulinus’ dedication to mission, the Pope gave him the Pallium of Archbishop of York. After the death of King Edwin, Paulinus accompanied the widowed queen back to the south, where he lived as Bishop of Rochester until his death on 10th October 644, which is now St Paulinus Day.

I also found reference to a Paulinus de Nola, another roman and this one lived circa c. 354 – June 22, ad 431.

So if we look upon the debate of where the surname came from in a scientific fashion and test each theory as a Scientific Hypothesis the questions would be 
  • ·         Does it explain how the name showed up in many countries
  • ·         Is this the earliest possible date seen
The only one that can check all the boxes is the name came from Rome.  This theory answers the questions on how the name showed up in all the countries (the Romans traveled extensively throughout Europe) and it is the earliest documentation of the name as well. 

Can we prove it – no, but it does tick all the boxes.   What do you think?

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