This French surname of MATHENY was of two-fold origin. It was a locational name meaning 'one who came from MATHENAY' the name of several places in France. It was also a baptismal name 'the son of Matthew'. The name was found in medieval registers throughout the country, and means 'gracious gift of Jehovah'. This given name was of biblical origin, ultimately from the Hebrew male font name Matityahu, recorded in the Greek New Testament in the form Matthias. It was an exceedingly popular font name during the 11th and 12th Centuries. The name was brought from France in the wake of the Norman Conquest of 1066. Early records of the name mention Mathiu, listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086. Alan Mathew of Canterbury, County Kent was recorded in the year of 1260. Mattheu Robert of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Robert Mathewson and Joane Goringe were married at St. Thomas the Apostle, London in 1559. The acquisition of surnames in Europe during the past eight hundred years has been affected by many factors, including social class and social structure, naming practices in neighbouring cultures, and indigenous cultural tradition. On the whole, the richer and more powerful classes tended to acquire surnames earlier than the working classes and the poor, while surnames were quicker to catch on in urban areas than in more sparsely populated rural areas. These facts suggest that the origin of surnames is associated with the emergence of bureaucracies. As long as land tenure, military service, and fealty were matters of direct relationship between a lord and his vassals, the need did not arise for fixed distinguishing epithets to mark out one carl from another. But as societies became more complex, and as such matters as the management of tenure and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to have a more complex system of nomenclature to distinguish one individual from another reliably and unambiguously.
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