- This is in origin, is a truly traditional "Olde English" given name, which became a Saxon and Welsh surname. It pre-dates written English history, and may well be a survivor of the days of the "Ancient Britons" before the arrival of the first Romans. Whilst described as Olde English, a term which also includes Gaelic and Celtic, the name derives from one of the earliest of all baptismal names - 'Aelfwine'. Recorded in the modern surnames of Ailwyn, Alwen, Alywen, Aylin, Aylwin, Allwyn, Elwyn, Elwin, Alwen, Olwen, Alvin, Alven, Elvin and no doubt others, it translates as 'Noble friend', and there seems little doubt that this meaning did contributed considerably to its early popularity. Whether there were other reasons as well is unclear, but judging by the spread of early recordings across England, the name was popular in almost every region. However its survival after the Norman Invasion of 1066 when it became 'political' to adopt Norman French names, suggests that in remote regions it was probably an act of faith in the Saxon resistance to all things French. In the 1086 Domeday Book, the name as a given name only, there were few surnames until after the year 1200, includes such examples as Alwin, Aelfwine, Alduin and Eldinus. Early examples of the recordings of the surname are those of Elfinus de Benindenne in Kent, the prior of St Gregory's church, in 1214, John Alvene, and landowner of Cambridge, in the 1279 Hundred Rolls of that county, and Thomas Eluwn of Worcester in 1327. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hugo Elfwin, which was dated 1193, in the pipe rolls of the county of Hereford, during the reign of King Richard 1, known as 'The Lion-heart', 1189 - 1199. 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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