Palin Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Palin Surname Meaning

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.

Palin Surname Resources on The Internet

Palin Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Cheshire) and Finland
  • to America and Canada

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.

Palin Surname Miscellany

Early Palins in Aldford, Cheshire.  The village of Aldford, a few miles south of Chester, recorded the following Palins in the 17th century.

Name Birth Death
Thomas Palin   1620   1681
John Palin   1655   1708
Thomas Palin   1681   1726
John Palin   1685   1717
Edward Palin   1687   1742

Thomas, the first in this line, married three times and was said to have had six children.  John Palin appeared as a tanner in the 1711 Chester rolls.  A later Thomas Palin of this family, born in 1714, had his portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the 1750’s.  It is still held by a descendant in Australia.

Edward Palin and Brita Gallagher.  Edward Palin was the great grandfather of Michael Palin, the comedian of Monty Python fame. Edward, born in 1826, studied at Oxford and by the 1860’s had become a don at St. John’s College.

In 1861 he was travelling in Switzerland and met by chance at a hotel a young Irish lady named Brita Gallagher some seventeen years his junior.  She had lost her parents during the potato famine, been sent to Canada on one of the infamous “coffin ships,” and was brought up there by a rich spinster who then sent her back to Europe to receive an education.

Despite the age gap, Edward and Brita were attracted to each other, but nothing came of things.  Edward wistfully pondered in his diary “what might have been.”  However, they kept in touch and got married in Paris in 1867 when she attained the legal age of 21.

Their problems were not over, though.  A strict celibacy rule applied to all senior fellows at St. John’s and Edward was forced to give up his position there.  But he did manage to secure a living as the vicar of Linton in Herefordshire. The couple lived in some degree of comfort, bringing up their seven children with the help of a large domestic staff.

William Mainwaring Palin.  William Mainwaring Palin was the son of the engraver William Palin and was born in 1862 in Hanley, Staffordshire.  He served an apprenticeship at Wedgewoods and later was able to study abroad in Italy and France.  He began to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1892 and continued to do so until 1915, establishing a reputation as a genre and mural painter.   He specialized in cupid subjects, fruit and flowers, fishes, birds and female heads.

He painted McEwan Hall at the University of Edinburgh.  On the dome there are figures of the Arts and Sciences. Over the proscenium arch to the apse there is a huge allegorical scheme on the theme of Temple of fame with enthroned goddesses of Science, Art and Literature. On the right of the arch is Minerva receiving the McEwan Hall and on the left Fame crowning Success. There are also figures of Perseverance, Intelligence, Imagination and Experience.

He was twice married.  There were two children of the second marriage, a son and a daughter.

The Palins in Pasquotank, North Carolina.  The first of this line was Henry Palin Sr, a Quaker, who arrived in Virginia sometime in the 1650’s and in 1663 patented 450 acres of land along Newbegun Creek.  He was at that time one of the first settlers in the new Carolina colony.  His land later became part of Pasquotank county, North Carolina. Henry died there in 1679.

There were a number of Quaker settlements in the new colony and Quakers did not suffer discrimination there.  John Archdale, a Quaker, was its Governor in 1695 and John Palin, one of Henry’s sons, was appointed the Chief Justice of North Carolina in 1731, a post he was to hold until his death six years later.

Henry had two other sons, Thomas and Henry.  Thomas, who married twice, lived onto 1733.  Henry died at a much younger age in 1699.  Known as Harry by his friends, Henry fell out of favor with the Quaker community in 1696 when he was accused of being a “procurer” in his sister Mary’s cohabitation.

“Widow Mary Clark was the sweetheart of Henderson Walker and was living at Walker’s house in Chowan precinct.”

Mary did marry again much later in 1709 to Joseph Glaister, this time with Quaker blessing.  Henry apparently married an Indian girl named Minnie-ha-Ha.

Palins in America by Country of Origin

Country Numbers Percent
Scandinavia   45   58
Germany   18   23
England   11   14
Elsewhere    4    5
Total   78  100

Palin Granit in Finland.  The story of the Finnish company Palin Granit began in 1921 when travelling stonemason Antti Palin built a base for his stone-working. At first the unhewn stone was transported to the small town of Loimaa in western Finland by rail and then driven by horse-drawn carriages to the stonework site.  The stones were loaded and unloaded by hand and Antti Palin crafted these stones into gravestones. 

The second generation initiated quarry operations and the business expanded greatly over the years while remaining family-owned.

Palin Names

  • 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 in 2008.

Palin Numbers Today

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

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Written by Colin Shelley

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