The Ancient History
of the
Distinguished Surname
'Martin'

The chronicles of England, though sometimes shrouded by the mists of time, reveal the early records of the name Martin as a Norman surname, which ranks as one of the oldest. The history of the name is interwoven into the colorful fabric as an intrinsic part of the history of Britain.

Careful research by professional analysts using such ancient manuscripts as the Domesday Book (compiled in 1086 by William the Conqueror), the Ragman Rolls, the Wace poem the Honor Roll of the Battel Abbey, the Curia Regis, Pipe Rolls, the Falaise Roll, tax records, baptismals, family genealogies, and local parish and church records, show the first record of the name Martin was found in Leicestershire where they were seated from very early times and were granted lands by Duke William of Normandy, their liege Lord, for their distinguished assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D.

Many alternate spellings of the name were found. They were typically linked to a common root, usually one of the Norman nobles at the Battle of Hastings. Martin is found as an English, French, Scottish, Irish, German, Czech, Flemish, Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian Patronymic surname -- derived from the ancient Latin given name Martinus, derived from Mars/Martis, the Roman god of fertility and war. A fourth-century saint had the name, and those early saints made for a lot of namesakes. Variations are Marten, Martyn, Martine, Lamartine, and Martijn among others. Scribes recorded and spelled the name as it sounded. It was not unlikely that a person would be born with one spelling, married with another, and buried with a headstone, which showed another. All three spellings related to the same person. Sometimes references for different spelling variations either came from a division of the family, or, had religious reasons, or sometimes patriotic reasons.

The family name Martin is believed to be descended originally from the Norman race. They were commonly believed to be of French origin but were, more accurately, of Viking origin. The Vikings landed in the Orkneys and Northern Scotland about the year 870 A.D., under their Chief, Stirgud the Stout. Later, under their Jarl, Thorfinn Rollo, they invaded France about 940 A.D. The French King, Charles the Simple, after Rollo laid siege to Paris, finally conceded defeat and granted northern France to Rollo. Rollo became the first Duke of Normandy, the territory of the North Men. Duke William, who invaded and defeated England in 1066, was descended from the first Duke Rollo of Normandy.

Duke William took a census of most of England in 1086, and recorded it in the Domesday Book. A family name capable of being traced back to this document, or to Hastings, was a signal honor for most families during the middle ages, and even to this day.

The surname Martin emerged as a notable English family name in the county of Leicester where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated as Lords of the manor and estates in that shire. They were originally from St. Martin in Normandy and arrived in England with the Conqueror. De Sancto Martino was granted lands in Leicestershire and held many manors in that shire. By the 12 th century they had also branched south to Kent from the Isle of Wight and in the former county erected Leeds Castle. Meanwhile the main stem of the family was at Anstey Pastures in Leicestershire and also at Rotton House in the same county. Baron Martin was the scion of the family. They became very strong seafaring family represented by Admiral Sir Thomas Martin, Captain Matthew Martin and John Martin who sailed around the world with Sir Francis Drake; the latter was of the Kentish branch. They moved north into Scotland, following Earl David of Huntingdon who would become King of Scotland. Later, in the 16 th , 17 th and 18 th centuries, England and Scotland were ravaged by religious and political conflict. The Monarchy, the Church and Parliament fought for supremacy. The unrest caused many to think of distant lands.

Settlers in Ireland became known as the 'Adventurers for land in Ireland'. They 'undertook' to keep the Protestant faith, and were granted lands previously owned by the Irish. In Ireland they settled in Tyrone and the name frequently became MacMartin and Gilmartin.

The news of attractions of the New World spread like wildfire. Many sailed aboard the fleet of sailing ships known as the 'White Sails'.

In North America, migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the family name Martin, or variable spellings of that same family name included Christopher Martin and his wife arrived on the 'Mayflower' in 1620; Joe Martin settled in Providence Rhode Island in 1635; Elizabeth, Francis, Henry, Jacob, James, John, Joseph, Margaret, Mary, Martin, Michael, Peter, Phillip, Richard, Samuel and Thomas Martin all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860; but perhaps the first settler was John Martin who settled in Virginia in 1606, 14 years before the 'Mayflower'. From the port of arrival many settlers joined the wagon trains westward. During the War of Independence some declared their loyalty to the Crown and moved northward to Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.

Meanwhile, the family name was prominent in the social scene. There were many notables of this name, Martin:

Sir David Martin
Edwin Martin, American Diplomat
Archer Martin, British Chemist
Charles Martin, American Cartoonist
Mary Martin, Actress
William Martin, American Financier

In the process of researching this distinguished family name we also traced the most ancient grant of Coat of Arms from the branches, which developed their own Arms.The most ancient grant of Coat of Arms found was: Silver with a chevron between two seashells at the top and a red cross in base. The Crest was: A Talbot's head. The ancient family Motto for this distinguished name was: 'Sure and Steadfast'

 

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