The surname of MARLIN was a French and Italian nickname from the Old French MERLE, meaning a blackbird. The name was rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form MERULA. This bird seems in the Middle Ages to have been regarded at times as a foolish creature like the magpie, and at other times as a cunning rogue like the jackdaw. In Italy today it is generally thought of as a shrewd, but in Milan it is a byword for simplicity and in Sicily it is noted for its timorousness. The surname may have been acquired in any of these senses. It may also have been an occupational name for a catcher of blackbirds for the cooking pot. The name has numerous variant spellings which include MERLEAU, LEMERLE, LEMESLE, MERLIER, MERLI, MIERULA, MELO, MERLET, MERLOZ and MERLETTI, to name but a few. Hereditary surnames were originally imported from France into England during the Norman Conquest of 1066. In the two centuries or so after the Conquest surnames were acquired by most families of major landholders, and many landed families of lesser importance. There appears to have been a constant trickle of migration into Britain between about the years 1200 and 150O, mostly from France and the Low Countries, with a small number of migrants from Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and the Iberian peninsular, and occasional individuals from further afield. During this period groups of aliens settled in this country as for example, the Germans who from the late 15th century onwards settled in Cumbria to work the metal mines. Immigration during this time had only a small effect on the body of surnames used in Britain. In many cases, the surnames of immigrants were thoroughly Anglicised. The late sixteenth century saw the arrival, mostly in London and the south-coast ports of large numbers of people fleeing from the war regions of France. As early as the year 1100, it was quite common for English people to give French names to their children, and the earliest instances are found among the upper classes, both the clergy and the patrician families. The Norman-French names used were generally the names most commonly used by the Normans, who had introduced them into England during the Norman Invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066.
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