The Hall of Names

From: The Hall of Names – T.Eaton Co – 1 Dundas st. west, 12th floor, Toronto, Ontario

The ancient chronicles of Scotland reveal the early records of the name Lyon as a Norman surname which ranks as one of the oldest. The history of the name is closely interwoven into the colorful tapestry which is an intrinsic part of the history of Britain.

In-depth research by skilled analysts into such ancient manuscripts such as the Doomsday 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, local parish and church records shows the first record of the name Lyon was found in Norfolk 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.

Alternate spellings were found in the archives researched, typically linked to a common root, usually one of the Norman nobles at the Battle of Hastings. Many Scottish Clans and families trace their origins to Normandy. Although your name, Lyon, occurred in many references, from time to time, the surname was also officially spelt Lyon, Lions, Lyons, and these changes in spelling frequently occurred even between father and son. 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 preferences for different spelling variations either came from a division of the family or, for religious reasons, or sometimes patriotic reasons.

The family name Lyon is believed to be descended originally from the Norman race, frequently but mistakenly assumed to be of French origin. They were more accurately of Viking origin. The Vikings landed in the Orkneys and Northern Scotland about the year 870 A.D., under their King, Stirgud the Stout. Thorfinn Rollo, his descendant landed in northern France about the year 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. Rollo married Charles’ daughter and became a convert to Christianity. 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 Doomsday Look. 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. By 1070, the Norman nobles were showing their displeasure with the land grants made by William. Duke William took an army north and laid waste most of the northern counties. King Malcolm Canmore invited many of the displaced nobles to his court and gave them grants of land. Later, about 1160, King David also offered land to his Norman friends.

The surname Lyon emerged as a notable Scottish family name in the county of Norfolk where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated with manor and estates in that shire. Randolph and William Lyon settled in Norfolk in 1066. Hugh Lyon was deprived of his estates in 1203 and moved north to Scotland where he was granted the lands of Rostinot. They were elevated to the peerage to the Lords Lyon and Glamis of Forfar, and the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorn They flourished in Scotland and they became involved in the political affairs. From this source was Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Queen Mother of the present Queen Elizabeth. Notable amongst the family at this time was Lord Lyon of Scotland

The surname Lyon contributed much to local politics and in the affairs of England or Scotland. Later, in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries England and Scotland was ravaged by religious and political conflict. The Monarchy, the Church and Parliament fought for supremacy. Their demands on rich and poor alike broke the spirit of men and many turned from religion, or alternatively, renewed their faith, pursuing with vigor and ferocity, the letter of the ecclesiastical law. Many families were freely ‘encouraged to migrate to Ireland, or to the ‘colonies’. Non believers or dissidents were banished, sometimes even hanged.

The settlers in Ireland became known as the ‘Adventurers for land in Ireland’. Essentially they ‘undertook’ to keep the Protestant faith, and became known as ‘the Undertakers’. There is no evidence that the family name migrated to Ireland but this does not preclude the possibility of their scattered migration to that country.

The attractions of the New World spread like wildfire. Many sailed aboard the fleet of sailing ships known as the ‘White Sails. The stormy Atlantic, small pox, dysentery cholera and typhoid took its toll on the settlers and many of the overcrowded ships arrived with only 60 or 70% of their passenger list. The migration or banishment to the New World continued, some voluntarily from Ireland, but mostly directly from England or Scotland, their home territories. Some clans and families even moved to the European continent.

In North America, migrants which could be considered a kinsman of the family name Lyon or variable spellings of that same family name included John Lyon settled in the Barbados in 1634; Matthew Lyon settled in North Carolina with his wife Mary in 1775; William Lyon settled in Boston in 1635; Bernard, George, James, Jane, John, Matthew, Patrick Lyon all settled in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860; Cornelius Lyons settled in Virginia in 1663, Andrew, Charles, Denis, Edward, Henry, James, John Michael Patrick, Thomas, William Lyons all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860. 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 into Canada and became known as the united Empire Loyalists.

Meanwhile, the family name was active in the social stream. There were many notables of this name Lyon, Dame Enid Lyon, Australian Politician; Alexander Lyon, British Politician; Cecil Lyon, American Diplomat Bernard Lyons, British Company Director; Denis Lyons, Scientist; Eugene Lyons. American Writer Sir William Lyons, Automobile Manufacturer of Jaguar.

In the process of researching this distinguished family name we also traced the most ancient grant of Arms from the branches which developed their own Arms.

The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was Silver with a blue lion.

The Crest is; A lady holding a royal thistle.

The ancient family motto for this distinguished name is; In Te Domine Speravi

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