This unusual surname derives from the female personal name "Ellen", which was the usual medieval English vernacular form of the given name "Helen", from the Greek "Helene", thought to be a derivative of "Helane", torch, and often translated as "the bright one". The given name was popular in medieval England, partly because Helena was the name of the mother of Constantine the Great, the Holy Roman Emperor credited with finding the True Cross; according to legend, St. Helena was the daughter of a British King. The surname development includes Walter Eleyn (1279, Oxfordshire), Ralph Elene (1314, Essex), Robert Elyn (1327, Suffolk), and William Helyns (1332, Worcestershire). The modern surname has a variety of forms, ranging from Ellen, Elen, Ellin, Elin, Elleyne, Hellen, Helen and Hellin, to the metronymics Ellens, Ellings, Ellins and Hellens. The marriage of William Elen and Dorothy Morris was recorded at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, in London, on April 16th 1611. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Helene, which was dated 1275, in the "Subsidy 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.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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