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Thain Coat of Arms / Thain Family Crest

Thain Coat of Arms / Thain Family Crest

This Scottish and English surname of THAIN is an uncommon surname, but of some antiquity in the district of Aberchirder. Other spellings include THAINE, THANE, THAYNE, THEYNE, TANE, TAYNE and TENE. The name was an occupational name for a noble retainer or attendant, and in Scotland the term was used in the Middle Ages to denote someone who held land directly from the king. The earliest of the name on record appears to be Kyned THAINUS de Katel, who witnessed a gift of land to the nuns of North Berwick, circa. 1177. Duncan THANE witnessed a charter in 1198, and William THEYNUS appears as a charter witness in 1253. The first people in Scotland to acquire fixed surnames were the nobles and great landowners, who called themselves, or were called by others, after the lands they possessed. Surnames originating in this way are known as territorial. Formerly lords of baronies and regalities and farmers were inclined to magnify their importance and to sign letters and documents with the names of their baronies and farms instead of their Christian names and surnames. The abuse of this style of speech and writing was carried so far that an Act was passed in the Scots parliament in 1672 forbidding the practice and declaring that it was allowed only to noblemen and bishops to subscribe by their titles. Later instances of the name include Richard and James THAYNE who were burgess of Dundee in 1563 and Patrick THAIN received payment in 1608 for 'setting up the gibbet' (the gallows). Alex THAINE and Ann Fisher were married at St. Antholin, London in the year 1640, and David Brodie THAIN wed Sarah Luntley at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1770. It was not until the 10th century that modern hereditary surnames first developed, and the use of fixed names spread, first to France, and then England, then to Germany and all of Europe. In these parts of Europe, the individual man was becoming more important, commerce was increasing and the exact identification of each man was becoming a necessity. Even today however, the Church does not recognise surnames. Baptisms and marriages are performed through use of the Christian name alone. Thus hereditary names as we know them today developed gradually during the 11th to the 15th century in the various European countries.


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Last Updated: Dec. 1st, 2021

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