A Look at the Payne Family History

All my life people have taken notice of my name - Payne.

The surname Payne is said to have originated from the Latin word Paganus, which meant one from the countryside, or rustic person in Roman times. As Christians rose to power, this name also became associated with "heathens." Through the Dark Ages, the name was sometimes given to children whose baptism was delayed for some reason, and even to adults who showed less-than-reverent religious zeal. By the 12th century, Pagan(us) was a common enough first-name in England that it was no longer given with thoughts to its meaning and was passed on as a surname. There are different derivatives including (among many others): Pagus, Pan, Pain, Payen and Payne.

There were several notable Paynes in Europe through the Middle Ages. One of the most famous (and infamous) was Hugues de Payens (c. 1070-1136) the first Grand Master of the Knights Templar.

Originally from the area of Champagne in Burgundy, France, de Payens served in the First Crusade to reclaim Jerusalem. With eight other knights of the first Crusade, Hughes de Payens vowed to stay and defend Christian pilgrims going to the Holy Land. The Templars rose in power, in part because they became a de facto bank for pilgrims throughout Europe and the Holy Land. And, while they took vows of poverty, they controlled a great deal of wealth. This power eventually threatened the papal control of the church and the Templars were declared heretics and most were killed on Friday the 13th by priests of the Inquisition.

Huges de Payens

We Paynes migrated from mainland Europe to England where the family branched off into different parts of the country. The surname was recorded in the English Domesday Book in 1086. Ralph de Paynel was listed as Sheriff of Yorkshire. According to the article Ancestors of William Worth of Nantucket, de Paynel

  • ...descended from Roman pagans who immigrated to Normandy and lived in villages called "pagi.11." The pagani retained their own beliefs and superstitious rituals in an area where Christianity was just beginning to thrive. They took their surname from those villages and became de Paganel ("heathen" or "pagan") and some took the name de Paynel ("peasant"). Later some became Payne.

They go on to say de Paynel was a Free Knight and Tenant-in-Chief of William I, having probably fought alongside him in Devonshire in 1067.

Among de Paynel's four children was Robert Fitz Payne. Most likely it was this Robert's son who can be found in "The Ancestor Vol. 7." "Robert Fitz Payne, Lord of Lammer, ...was Governor of Winsor Castle and Steward of the Kings household." While I have not been able to verify his titles, I have found corroborating listings about his seal which was "three lions passant with a baston in an oval with S' Robert.Fil'.Pagani around the edge."

There was also an Edmund filius Pagen of Somerset listed in the Domesday Book. In 1190 John Payne is listed in the Pipe Rolls for Worcestershire while Rotrotus Pagani is registered in the Pipe Rolls for Leicestershire.

A unique monument can be found to Sir William Payne (died 1388) in the nave of St. Peter ad Vincula (in chains) Church in Tollard Royal, England. He is depicted laying in full armor with his legs crossed, which would symbolize that he fought in the Crusades, and for some reason resting his feet on a dog.

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Payne Family Coat of Arms

The family coat of arms most associated with the Paynes also originated between the 14th and 16th century. A coat of arms was proof of a man's honor and identity in a time before easy identification. There are several different Payne coat of arms, so I chose the one closest to my line. The official description of our crest could be found in "Crozier's General Armory: a registry of American families entitled to a coat of arms."

  • PAYNE Virginia
  • William Payne Lynchburg circa 1630
  • SHIELD gules a fesse between two lions passant argent
  • CREST A lion's gamb couped argent grasping a broken tilting lance spear end pendent gules
  • MOTTO Main mori quam foedari
Payne Crest

For a breakdown of what that means please see the Payne Coat of Arms page.

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Notable Paynes in American History:

There are three well-documented branches of the Payne family to settle in the United States. My line came across the Atlantic to settle in Virginia in the 17th century with John Payne, son of Sir Robert Payne of Huntingdonshire, England. In Virginia our family branched several times and my ancestors came across to Missouri, where my Great Great Grandfather was a judge, and then on to Texas.

Here are a few notable Paynes from American history.

Gen. John Payne (April 8, 1764 - September 9, 1837): in the War of 1812 he commanded the Kentucky Light Dragoons, in the Battle of the Thames.

Dolley Payne Todd Madison (May 20, 1768 - July 12, 1849): wife of President James Madison, was First Lady of the United States from 1809 to 1817

John Howard Payne (June 9, 1791 - April 10, 1852): an American actor, poet, playwright, and author most famous for the song "Home, Sweet Home"

  • Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
  • Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;

Major John Payne (dates needed): during the 1830s he oversaw the construction of Fort Payne in DeKalb County, Alabama, that was used to intern Cherokees until relocation to Oklahoma. Their forced exile became known as the Trail of Tears.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (May 10, 1900 - December 7, 1979): an Astronomer who, in 1925, was first to show that the Sun is mainly composed of hydrogen, contradicting accepted wisdom at the time.

A. R. Payne (dates needed): a scientist who studied rubber. The Payne Effect is named for him and deals with a particular feature of the stress-strain behavior of rubber.

Doris Payne (1930 - ): an infamous jewel thief who was just caught in 2005 for stealing a $30k diamond ring from Neiman Marcus.

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