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Stephens Family History
This is a patronymic i.e. "the son of Steven or Stephen", a personal name deriving from the Greek "Stephanos" meaning "Crown". Stephen was a popular name in the Middle Ages having been borne by the first Christian martyr. It is first recorded in England in its latinized form Stefanus (the Domesday Book of 1086). The surnames adopted from the name first appear in the latter half of the 13th Century - Robert Stephen (1260) and Agnes Stiven (1279) - The Hundred Rolls of Buckinghamshire. The patronymic forms Stevens and Stephens are recorded at that time also. An interesting name bearer was Catherine Stephens, Countess of Essex (1794 - 1882), a vocalist and actress listed in the National Biography, who sang at Drury Lane and Covent Garden, London and was 'unsurpassed for her rendering of ballads'...
Stephens (Variants: Variants: Steven, Stephan, Stiven, Stevens, Steen)
Although there is no instance of Stephen in Domesday Book, it still gained popularity rapidly like John and Peter. Mainly derived from the name of an ancestor, an instance of ‘the son of Stephen’ - King Stephen (c. 1097-1154,) King of England (1135-1154), who was the son of Stephen, Count of Blois and Chartres and said to have exercised an influence in the derivation.
William Fitzstephen (died c. 1191) was a cleric and administrator in the service of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1170, Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral, which resides in the county of Kent. The conflict arose between Henry II, King of England over the rights and privileges of the Church.
Early bearers of the surname include: Robert Stephen, 1260 in Assize Rolls (Cheshire); Agnes Stiven, 1279 in Hundred Rolls (Bucks); Roger Stefne, 1283 in Oseney Cartulary (Oxon); Thomas Stephene, 1379 in Poll Tax (Stockton, Warwicks); Henry Steven, 1539 in IGI (Lezant, Cornwall); John Stephen, 1541 in IGI (Saint Just in Roseland, Cornwall); Jane Stephen, 1542 in IGI (Saint Columb Major, Cornwall).
In 1891 census, the surname had 29,200 occurrences in England and Wales and a further 291 in Scotland. In 1881, the surname was prevalent in Cornwall and Devon with Nottinghamshire was also being a top county recorded with 1,302 occurrences.
In 1881, Farmer, Agricultural Labourer and Labourer were the top 3 reported jobs worked by Stephens in the UK, with the most common occupation being Farmer. A less common occupation was Coal Miner.
Henry Stephens (b. 1791) was a Cornish settler convicted on 16 February 1826 in Launceston, Cornwall. He was sentenced for 14 years for receiving stolen goods and was transported aboard the ship "Chapman" on 10 April 1826 to Van Diemen's Land, Tasmania, Australia.
George Stephens (1813-1895) was a British archaeologist and philologist who interpreted runic inscriptions, particularly in Scandinavia. Originally from England, he moved to Sweden to study Scandinavian medieval folklore. He was also a lecturer in English at the Copenhagen University in Denmark.
A notable English musician was Alison Stephens (1970 – 2010), a classical mandolin player and film musician.
1881, 1891 Census
1881 Census in Nottinghamshire
Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016
1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain
1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain
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