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The most likely origin is Welsh, from the patronymic ap Heilwyn (son of Heilwyn), where Heilwyn is a personal name originally meaning "wine bearer."  A Goronwyn ap Heilyn was ambassador to King Llewellyn in the late 13th century. 

This ap Heilwyn would later contract to "Palin" across the border in England.  The name was mainly to be found in the English border counties (while the possibly related "Paling" occurred in the East Midlands). Llewellyn ap Heilyn who had fought and won with Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field might have established a well-known Palin name in England.  However, this family became Meyricks instead after his son Meyrick ap LLewellyn.    

Palin is also a Finnish surname.  Saija Palin, for instance, was a former Miss Finland.  And Palin Granit is a well-regarded Finnish public company.  A Palin whose name was shortened from Palinski suggests another country origin.

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England.  The Palin surname didn't stick in Wales - but it did in the English border counties, most notably in Cheshire. 

Cheshire.  One family traces their Palins back to the Cheshire village of Aldford in the 1620's.  William Palin of this family was a dairy farmer at Stapleford Hall near Chester in the early 19th century.   Another William Palin from Aldford was appointed Chief Constable of Manchester in 1857.

John Palin, born in Malpas, fought in the Crimean War and then in the American Civil War.  He survived and returned to tell the tale.  William Palin was a clockmaker in Nantwich in the early 1800’s.  The Palin name was also to be found in nearby villages such as Wybonbury, Monks Coppenhall, and Warmingham

As the 19th century proceeded, many Palins moved north into Liverpool and industrial Lancashire.  Cheshire Palins also crossed over to neighboring Staffordshire - with the engraver William Palin at Hanley and with his son William Mainwaring Palin who was a noted figure painter of the late 19th century.  A descendant was the Air Chief Marshal, Sir Roger Palin.

London.  The roots of the TV comedian and writer Michael Palin were in London.  His great grandfather Edward Palin was born there in 1826, the son of an Islington storehouse clerk.  Edward became the vicar of Lindon in Herefordshire in 1865.  A highly intelligent man, he was the subject of Allan Ricketts’ 1996 booklet The Palin Assignment. 

There was another Edward Palin from London, born around the same time, who was the son of Charles Vyse Palin, a straw hat maker in Holborn.  He too became a straw hat maker, based in St. Albans.  His home there was Verulam House

America and Canada.
   Several Palins crossed the Atlantic:
  • Henry Palin, a Quaker, came to Newbegun Creek in 1663 and was one of the earliest settlers in the Carolinas.  His descendants established themselves along the Pasquotank river in North Carolina for the next 200 years.  
  • another Palin family was said to have had Indian blood in them from their sojourn in New York state.  They migrated first to Nebraska and then to Montana. 
  • Richard Palin came to Canada in 1866 and settled in Barrie, Ontario.
The Palin line in Alaska (Sarah Palin and her husband Todd) started with a Richard Palin from Lancashire who arrived in Canada in the 1890's and whose son later moved to the US West Coast.

More Palin immigrants to America in the 19th century came from Scandinavia than they did from England. 

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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William M. Palin
was a noted English figure painter of the late 19th century.
Michael Palin was a comic actor in the Monty Python TV series and more recently has made a name for himself with his travel documentaries. 
Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska, was the US Republican Vice-Presidential candidate for 2008.

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  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in Cheshire)
  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in Florida).
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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