Payne Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Payne Surname Meaning

Payne is a name of French origin, but of two possible derivations.  Payne could be locational, from the Payns region in northern France. In the 12th century a Hugh de Payen was founder of the Knights Templar in Clermont and a Payen de Montmuse accompanied Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade. These Paynes appeared in England via Jersey in the Channel Islands.

However, the usual explanation for the surname is that Payne derives from the Old French paien and the Latin paganus. Its original meaning described someone who lived in the countryside, as opposed to a town dweller (urbanus). The following was one interpretation of this situation.

“Christianity made its early advances in the larger towns which often had a monastery or cathedral. The country folk, without access to these institutions, became known as pagans and the name came to include both declared non-Christians and country peasants.”

The name arrived in England with the Normans. Its original meaning got forgotten somehow and Payn enjoyed some popularity as a personal name. Payn Roet, for example, was the father-in-law of Geoffrey Chaucer. But its use here died out in the 16th century.

Both Payne and Paine appear as surname spellings today. Payne is by far the most common.

Payne Surname Resources on The Internet

Payne and Paine Surname Ancestry

  • from Channel Islands and Southern England
  • to America, Canada (Newfoundland) and Australia

England.  Jersey in the Channel Islands was in its early days part of the Duchy of Normandy and it was through these French connections that the Payn name first appeared. Their pedigree was covered in J.B. Payne’s 1859 book Payne’s Armorial of Jersey.

Paynes in Jersey.  The Payn presence in Jersey dated from about 1200. John Payn was Bailly of Jersey in 1446. They were Royalist during the English Civil War and only reluctantly hauled down the royal standard on Elizabeth Castle in 1649.

“Stephen Payne was a Colonel of Horse in the army of Charles I. When all for a time was lost, he thought of his native island of Jersey where Prince Charles could not but find a hearty welcome. Colonel Payne escorted Prince Charles and his brother the Duke of York to the Payne home in Jersey and acted generously as host to the distinguished visitors.”

Both Stephen and his son Abraham were present at the defeat of the royal forces at Worcester in 1851. Abraham departed Jersey for Wiltshire on the English mainland and then fled to St. Kitts in the West Indies where he and his family prospered. From this line came Ralph Payne (Baron Lavington) and his half-brother John (Jack) Payne. They were both friends of the Duke of Cumberland and his nephew the Prince of Wales, later George IV.

“Captain Jack Payne was at one time comptroller of the Prince’s household. The restless energy that fueled his military career was spent on dissipation in peacetime. It was he who negotiated the settlements with the Prince’s mistresses. Captain Payne was known for his disrespect and foul mouth.”

The Payns in Jersey had family connections with other Paynes in England. These included Sir Robert Payne, the MP for Huntingdonshire, ironically a close associate of Oliver Cromwell, and his cousin Sir Thomas Payne and the Paynes in Suffolk. The Jersey Paynes would settle nearby in Bedfordshire.

There are still Payns in Jersey. William Stanley Payn who runs Fauvic Nurseries is the fourth generation of Payn tomato growers on the island.

Paynes Elsewhere.  Payn or Payne as a surname in England had other starting points as well. John Payn of Wymondham in Norfolk was the chief butler to Henry IV in the early 1400’s. Another John Payn was a wealthy merchant in Southampton and London at around the same time.

The name was also to be found in the southeast, in particular in Sussex. Paynes had been yeomen in East Grinstead since the 1450’s. Sussex records show the marriage of John Payne and Joanne Wood in East Grinstead in 1560 and of two Paynes – Edward from East Grinstead and Anna from Hickstead – in Twineham in 1583. Edward Payne of East Grinstead was sheriff of Sussex in 1644.

“These ‘Paynes of the Towne,’ as they were styled in the early registers to distinguish them from other families in the parish of the same name seem to have risen, by dint of frugality and industry, to become in the 16th century ironmasters of note and considerable landowners in the parish.”

Meanwhile the Petworth Payne family in Sussex at this time was descended from John Payne of Hammersmith in London, a wealthy mercer who had died in 1573.

The Paine spelling was notable in Norfolk. The death of Peter Paine was recorded in Norwich in 1509. Joseph Paine was a Norwich hosier who became its mayor and a public benefactor to the town in the 1660’s. The famous pamphleteer Thomas Paine was born into a Quaker home in Thetford, Norfolk in 1737.

America. DNA analysis has suggested that a number of Paynes among the early settlers in America were related.  The related lines include:

  • John Payne of Huntingdonshire who was an immigrant into Westmoreland county, Virginia around 1650. His line was featured in Brooke Payne’s 1937 book The Paynes of Virginia.
  • Ralph and Thomas Payne, two brothers also from Huntingdonshire who arrived in 1652. They made their home on the northern rock between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers in Virginia.
  • William and Hannah Paine from Suffolk who were settlers in Massachusetts. William became proprietor of the Hammersmith ironworks at Lynn in 1658.
  • and possibly Thomas Payne who settled in St. Mary’s, Maryland in 1664.

New England. Among early Paines in New England were:

  • Moses Paine from Tenterden in Kent who was on the Castle to Braintree, Massachusetts in 1638 and Stephen Paine from Hingham, Norfolk on the Diligent to Hingham, Massachusetts in the same year.
  • and Thomas Paine who came to Yarmouth on Cape Cod in 1639. In 1680 Thomas Paine the younger built the windmill at Eastham which still stands. Peter Paine was an early settler on Long Island.

Virginia. The Virginia Paynes from Huntingdonshire became part of the Virginia colonial aristocracy of the 17th and 18th centuries, with close ties to families such as the Washingtons, Fairfaxes, and Quesenberrys. Colonel William Payne was one of George Washington’s honorary pall-bearers.

The Rev. John Payne, a missionary bishop to Africa, was a 19th century descendant. John Barton Payne, a Cabinet minister under Woodrow Wilson, was the head of the American Red Cross from 1922 to 1935.

Canada. Newfoundland has a long history of Paynes.

Newfoundland..  William Paine was recorded as owning property in Harbour Grace in 1765 (and apparently his family were there further back as well). There is a Payne House in Harbour Grace today that was built by John and Rachel Payne in 1856.

Thomas Paine arrived from Devon around 1800, working as a boat builder in St. John’s and then with his three brothers starting a whale factory in Aquaforte. Charles Payne came from Hampshire in 1805 or so, married and settled in Cow Head.

Paynes have been recorded at Fogo island in Notre Dame Bay since the 1850’s. A Payne family there were pilots who guided ships through the treacherous shoals for several generations. Sadly the piloting came to an end in 1902 when William Payne and three of his sons went missing and were presumed drowned. But Ambrose Payne was able to carry on the Payne seafaring tradition.

Today Jim Payne from Notre Dame Bay is a well-known local folk singer who performs and records the traditional sea shanties of Newfoundland culture. Paynes are numerous in Newfoundland today.

Australia. A number of Paynes came out to Australia from England in the 1850’s.

The Pain family from Somerset (Payne in Australia) came to Melbourne in batches between 1850 and 1860. George, the first to arrive, operated the Bridge Inn in Woodstock, Victoria for many years.  Others in the family prospered as well, a notable achievement as they appear to have arrived in Australia illiterate.

George and Elizabeth Payne and their family came on the Ann Holzberg to Adelaide from Leicestershire in 1853. Sadly Elizabeth died in childbirth during the voyage. The remaining family settled in Kyneton, South Australia.

Meanwhile Martin and Mary Payne and their children came on the William Hammond to Adelaide from Bedfordshire in 1854. A year later they moved onto Beechworth, Victoria.

Payne and Paine Surname Miscellany

Payne as Pagan.  Brooke Payne in his 1996 book The Paynes of Virginia quoted a number of older sources in giving the name Payne Norman and pagan origins:

“The Paynes of England are said to be of Norman origin and are believed to be descended from men who, at the time that Rollo became a Christian in 912 AD, refused to be baptized and hence were distinguished by the name ” paganus” or ” le payen.”  The name was thus applied as a soubriquet and does not connote consanquinity.” 

Paynes in Suffolk.  The family of Sir Thomas Payne removed themselves from Market Bosworth in Leicestershire to Suffolk, near Bury St. Edmunds where they became the bailiffs of Hengrave for the Duke of Buckingham.

Albert W. Paine in his 1881 book Paine Genealogy – Ipswich Branch related the following:

“William Payne was a man of much note and importance in his day, being in the service of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, as bailiff for his manor at Hengrave.  In 1521 the Duke, having been convicted of conspiring against King Henry VIII, was put to death.  The office thus becoming vacant by the death of the Duke, Payne lost his place as deputy and was obliged to retire to private life.  The Duke’s successor, however, appointed Payne’s son Henry to the office held by his father.”

Henry Payne profited from Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and acquired the manor of Nowton and other properties belonging to the dissolved monastery of St. Edmund.

Payne’s Armory of Jersey.  Payne’s Armory of Jersey was published in 1859 by J. Bertrand Payne. The book contains many family trees, coats of arms, information on families’ origins, and the part prominent members have played in the history of the island.

The genealogical outfit GENUKI has commented that the work is “not as accurate as it could have been.  The publisher relied on submissions from the families represented who paid to appear.”  A major failing was that Payne adopted a strange policy of anglicizing virtually all personal names, using John for Jean, Mary for Marie, Philip for Philippe, etc. at a time when Jersey was a French-speaking island and virtually every child was baptized with a French name.

Payne Family Linkages Through DNA.  Prior to 1650, several families bearing the surname Payne settled in the English colonies.  DNA test results have suggested that the English Payne families of Suffolk, Huntingdonshire and Jersey in the Channel Islands, were members of one family.

Members of the Suffolk branch settled in Massachusetts, represented by William and Hannah Paine.  William was known to have had dealings on Virginia’s Eastern Shore with friends and kinsmen of the Payne family of Westmoreland county, Virginia.  Sir Robert Payne, MP for Huntingdonshire in the early 1600’s, is believed to have been the father of John Payne the immigrant there.

Members of the Jersey Payn family settled at St. Kitt’s around the year 1654. Other members of this Jersey family settled in Virginia and Maryland.  In Virginia, the brothers Ralph and Thomas Payne settled on the Northern Neck between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers where they were also associated with the family of John Payne.

Captain Jack Payne and Rene Payne.  There was said to have been a family connection between the Jersey Paynes, then resident in Bedfordshire, and the Paynes in Northamptonshire.

This connection came to light when Captain Jack Payne, acting for the Prince of Wales in the matter of his marriage to Mrs. Fitzherbert, approached Rene Payne, a banker from Northamptonshire, to intervene in this matter. Reports at the time suggested a kinship between the two Payne families.

One source has it that George Payne of the Northamptonshire branch became the guardian of Little George  Payne who was in fact the illegitimate son of the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Fitzherbert.

Thomas Paine of Thetford.  In the church register of Euston parish near Thetford occurs this entry:

“1734.  Joseph Pain and Frances Cocke were married June 20th.”:

These were the parents of Thomas Paine.  The rector of Euston church has said that the name written was clearly Pain. But in the Thetford town records of that time it was officially entered as Paine.  Both Paine and Cocke were in fact notable name in Norfolk history at that time.

Paynes and Payne House of Harbour Grace, Newfoundland.  The Payne House in Harbour Grace was built in 1856 by John and Rachel Payne and, because it survived the fire of 1944 which destroyed much of the downtown area and because it remained essentially unaltered, it is a very good representative of its period.  With its original twelve-pane windows, door and window surrounds, it is the best preserved of a row of houses all dating from about the same time.

Hutchinson’s Trade Directory of 1864 showed a number of Paynes living in Harbour Grace at that time:

  • George Payne, revenue boat
  • John Payne, manager of works
  • John Payne, fisherman
  • Nicholas Payne, storekeeper
  • Nicholas Payne, overseer of oil works
  • Robert Payne, fisherman
  • William Payne, fisherman.

Paynes in Newfoundland Today.  Two years ago we spent the summer in the Canadian Maritimes including 22 days in Newfoundland.  I had read the area was settled by Paynes.

We stopped in a very small town of Parsons Pond, Newfoundland (about 300 people) and noticed a Payne’s Grocery and Payne’s Hardware.  At the grocery we were pointed to a pub where we met many Paynes.  We found everyone in the area was either a Payne or had Payne blood.

Later in Newfoundland we stopped in another very small town and I looked at their phone directory.   It was about 20 pages thick and the Payne listing took four of those pages.  I talked to the woman who owned the campground where we were staying and she was a Payne.  She told me to take a boat trip to the next town because everyone there was a Payne.

It was an interesting trip.  I have no idea how many Paynes live in Newfoundland, but I’m sure it is in the thousands.

Payne Names

  • John Payn was Bailly of Jersey in 1446.
  • Tom Paine was a radical 18th century political philosopher and pamphleteer in England and America.
  • John Howard Payne was an early 19th century English playwright.
  • David Lewis Payne was the American soldier and pioneer considered “the father of Oklahoma” for opening up the territory for settlement.

Payne Numbers Today

  • 48,000 in the UK (most numerous in Northamptonshire)
  • 52,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 33,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Payne and Like Surnames

The Norman Conquest brought new rulers to England and they brought their names and language, a form of French, with them.  Over time their names became less French and more English in character.  Thus Hamo became Hammond, Reinold Reynolds and Thierry Terry and so forth.  The names Allen, Brett, Everett, and Harvey were probably Breton in origin as Bretons also arrived, sometimes as mercenaries.

The new Norman lords often adopted new last names, sometimes from the lands they had acquired and sometimes from places back in Normandy.  Over time the name here also became more English.  Thus Saint Maur into Seymour, Saint Clair into Sinclair, Mohun into Moon, and Warenne into Warren.

Here are some of these Norman and Breton originating names that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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