Surname Spellings

Adoption, Variants & Deviants of HINXMAN & Related Surnames


This page focuses on the origins and range of different spellings of HINXMAN and related surnames, from circa 1565 to the present day.

Adoption of Surnames
Inherited surnames were generally adopted across England in the 13th and 14th centuries, at first mainly by the aristocracy.  By 1400 most English people had surnames, although surnames were not adopted by many Scots and Welsh people until the 17th century or even later.

HINXMAN and related names derive from different spellings of the job title, here spelt as Henxman (plural: Henxmen), in the mediaeval Royal Household.  The post of Henxman is known to have existed from about 1345, until 1565.  Most working Henxmen (normally from the gentry or aristocratic families) therefore already possessed a surname in addition to their job title, and considerable evidence of this survives.  Click on Henxmen Names to see a complete list of those discovered so far.

It appears that while their post existed, the Henxmen were only allowed to use their job title in connection with their duties, to prevent abuse of their authority.  This explains the general absence of Henxman-derived surnames until the abolition of the post by Queen Elizabeth in 1565.  However, a few records of Henxmen-derived names exist from before abolition, such as the marriage of Jhon (sic) HINCKESMAN to Margaret DOLLINS on 23 Jan 1549, at Naunton, Gloucestershire, England.  His name is probably best cautiously interpreted as meaning 'John who works as a Henxman', rather than as an inherited family name.

Soon after the abolition of the Henxmen's post circa 01 Dec 1565, some of the former Henxmen appear to have retained their job title as a surname celebrating their former work.  This was quite late to be adopting new surnames, but that underlines the high regard in which the post was held.  These Henxman-derived names were probably used as personal names initially, not as an inherited family names.  However, some clearly did become adopted as inherited surnames, and this is how the HINXMAN family name began.  Discovering the precise identity of our HINXMAN founding father, and the date his job title was first inherited by his offspring, are long-term aims of research into our ancestors.  But these are not yet known, and indeed may never be.

1565-1625: Job Title or Surname?

The post-1565 change, from job title to surname, was probably not clear-cut.  There followed a lengthy period when at least some former Henxmen were probably still alive.  So when Henxman-derived last names were used during that period, they could have represented previous careers, or newly inherited surnames, for different people.

The earliest example of this is William HYNKESMAN, whose name was recorded in 1565-66 – at the very point of abolition.  We simply cannot be sure whether his name meant ‘William who used to work as a Henxman’ (although at that date it is probably at least that), and/or ‘William from the HYNKESMAN family’, or even a poorly spelled ‘William from the HINKSMAN, or HINXMAN (or similar!), family’

If (as seems possible) he was the same 'William HYNCKESMAN Gentleman, late of Andover, deceased' identified in the marriage licence of his daughter Joyce HYNCKSMAN in 1589-90, then his surname was clearly inherited by her - and his Andover home suggests that he was an early member of what is now the HINXMAN family. 

But lack of sufficient early records means such queries may never be resolved.  The variable spelling of those days adds another layer of difficulty: you may have noticed the above examples each contain slightly different spellings: HYNKESMAN, HYNCKESMAN & HYNCKSMAN, yet they probably all mean precisely the same name.

Assuming the last working Henxmen were 25+ years old in 1565, and that they lived to a maximum age of 85, this period of uncertainty lasted from 1565 until about 1625. 
In the above example, the surname was inherited in about 1568 (the estimated birthdate of Joyce HYNCKSMAN).  But Henxman-derived names from this period need to be treated with caution.  Without supporting evidence, it is only after circa 1625 that we can be certain such surnames have become inherited family names.

Indeed, the earliest convincing record of our HINXMAN surname spelling as an inherited family name, is the marriage of Agnes HINXMAN only 5 years later, at St Gregory by St Paul, London, England, on 12 Sep 1630.  There were never any females employed as Henxmen (the job required physical strength and skill with arms, and was limited to males), so her gender tells us she had inherited her surname from at least one generation earlier.  Unfortunately, Agnes has not yet been connected to any family tree of modern descendants.

Illustration:  Queen Elizabeth I.  Circa 1585-1590.
Elizabeth I abolished the post of Henxmen at court, circa 01 December 1565 - enabling the start of the HINXMAN family surname.  For picture details, see footnote.

Surname Variants
Various different spellings of the HINXMAN surname have occurred over the years.  But the great majority of records indicate that members of the family have spelt their surname – and therefore pronounced it too – remarkably consistently.  Moreover where the name has been spelt differently, subsequent records normally show the spelling reverting rapidly to HINXMAN.  This suggests that the differing spellings were in error, usually made by other people, and that family members were generally aware of HINXMAN as the normal spelling for this family, and endeavoured to retain it.

HINXMAN is therefore a surname variant of the original Henxman job title.  A variant is a valid surname established by custom and usage, i.e. an established version of the word, with broad continuity for the family, and widely accepted as the normal spelling for that family’s name.  Some other confirmed Henxman-derived surname variants have also survived, such as HINCKESMAN and HINKSMAN. 

Further work is needed to establish an exhaustive list of all Henxman-derived surname variants – whose families therefore share authentic Henxman heritage.  There are two distinct challenges in this.  One is to establish that they are true family surnames.  This requires the construction of family trees for each suspected surname variant.

A more complex challenge is to assess which apparent variants are truly Henxman-derived. 
Some may stem directly from Henxman founding fathers, or may have developed from similar variants.  Other apparent variants may have quite a different origin, but have evolved on a convergent path to produce a similar sounding surname.  For instance it was suggested in the 19th century that the surname of HENSMAN was a variant of Henxman.  If it is pronounced as 'Hence-man', this seems a reasonable guess.  But this name is now thought to be more probably derived from ‘hens’+’man’, i.e. the man who looks after the chickens.  Either might be true, and the origin of several variants still remains unclear: for instance the surnames of HINESMAN and HINGSTON may or may not be Henxman-derived.

A particularly unusual case, whose origin is well documented, is the HENCHMAN surname variant.  This originated as a royal compliment to a certain individual, Thomas CROSBOROUGH, for behaving like a true Henxman, so the name is indeed Henxman-related.  But despite their adoption of the HENCHMAN name, the family themselves are not descended from anyone who worked as a Henxman.

Surname Deviants
Our own HINXMAN surname is an uncommon one, with an unusual spelling.  So like other Henxman variants, it has a long history of being occasionally misspelt, for a whole range of reasons. 

Not everyone is able to read or write to perfection.  Some people try to spell the name phonetically (mediaeval records prove there are many ways to do that).  Others simply guess at the spelling.  Some people mispronounce it, or pronounce it with widely differing accents, leading others to write it differently.  Others just mishear it.  Some introduce errors when transcribing it (especially from poorly written manuscripts).  Some know a related name or spelling, and so write that instead.  And some just can't believe it’s right, so they write down what they think looks better.  And all of these still happen today! 

But this was especially true in earlier times.  Many people could not read then, and spelling was not standardised like today. The idea of ‘correct’ spelling is relatively modern, and English spelling was not largely standardised until the publication of Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755.  Until then - and even since - people spelt words however they wished: according to personal habit, or phonetically – sometimes even spelling the same word in several different ways on the same page!

So there was always some natural deviation from the standard spelling of HINXMAN and other variants.  These forms of a surname are called deviants.  Surname deviants are just alternative ways that a name has been spelt or misspelt, not valid surnames.  They are short-lived (although they may re-appear); show little continuity for individuals; usually no continuity between generations; and are rarely or never widely accepted as the correct spelling by the family as a whole.

To further complicate matters, surname deviants sometimes coincide with the spelling of other variants - so a particular spelling can be a variant in some cases, and a deviant in others.  Surname deviants are surprisingly numerous, and form the bulk of known alternative surname spellings.  Henxman-derived spellings which have occurred as deviants include HINCHMAN, HINESMAN, HINKSMAN (this is also a well-established variant), HITCHMAN, and HYNXMAN.

German HINXMANNs?
The very rare surname spelling of HINXMANN, with a double 'N', is an interesting example of a deviant spelling which has occurred several times in North America during the 20th and 21st centuries.  There is no historical justification for such a surname spelling, although some of the earlier mediaeval spellings of the Henxman job title did include double Ns.  Our surname originated solely in England, and no HINXMANN version of the surname has ever been recorded there, so this American spelling is clearly not mediaeval in origin.

In fact the HINXMANN spelling appears to have come from people guessing (wrongly) that HINXMAN is a German name, as both the 'X' and the 'man' are typically German sounds.  This is a fairly common assumption: for instance it is known to have occurred in at least 3 generations of the HINXMAN of Nova Scotia branch (Avis Benjamin HINXMAN née MANWARING (1892-1986), Walter Irving HINXMAN (1916-2004), & Kurt Walter HINXMAN (1952-)).

The idea of a German origin would have seemed especially plausible to the Nova Scotia branch, as a sizeable group of German soldiers and their families are known to have settled at Bear River in Nova Scotia, not far from the old HINXMAN homestead at Digby.  Moreover the early settlers, who had suffered great hardship, cold and famine, understandably disliked talking of those times - and took much information with them to their graves, apparently leaving some modern descendants uncertain of their background.  And so the idea of a German origin was born, and not at first contradicted.

In fact all known examples of the deviant HINXMANN spelling occur in relation to the Nova Scotia branch, although the family themselves actually used the HINXMAN spelling of their forebears.  So it seems that this HINXMANN spelling comes from people outside the family, who took the guess one step further and added a 'proper' German 'NN' ending.  The original Henxman word and its derivatives are indeed from ancient Germanic roots, as are Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, and Modern English too.  But that is quite different from being German, and there is absolutely no documentary evidence to support this idea, whilst there are hundreds of pieces of evidence demonstrating our origin in the mediaeval English royal households.

Conclusion
The subject of Henxman-derived name origins is surprisingly complex and interesting, and still holds plenty of opportunities for further research and analysis.  Additional webpages on the topic are proposed, as well as one
focusing upon the varied spellings of the Henxman job title, prior to its adoption as a surname.

References
  • Unknown author.  23 Jan 1549.  Marriage of Jhon HINCKESMAN to Margaret DOLLINS.  Naunton, Gloucestershire, England.  Gloucestershire Anglican Parish Registers.  Reference Numbers: P224 IN 1/1.  Gloucestershire Archives.  Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England.
  • Unknown author.  14 Oct 1568.  Marriage of John WAYMONT & Johane HINGSTON.  Malborough, Devon, England.
  • Unknown author.  28 Feb 1589-90.  Marriage of William SAMPSON, 'Scriptorem', & Joyce HYNCKSMAN, Spinster, daughter of William HYNCKESMAN, late of Andover, county Southampton, Gentleman, deceased.  St Lawrence, Old Jewry, London, England.  General Licences.  London, England: Marriage Licences, 1520-1610.
  • Cynthia 'Cyndi' A. HINXMAN née POOLE.  29 Jan 2019.  The HINXMANN Family.  Personal Communication: Email. 
  • William HITCHMAN.  06 Apr 1861.  Orthography of Proper Names.  Notes & Queries.  2nd Series.  Volume XI.  Pages 269-270.  London, England.
  • Walter William SKEAT (1835-1912).  09 Oct 1886.  HENSMAN.  Notes & Queries.  7th Series.  Volume II.  Page 298.  London, England.  One of many learned contributions by the eminent philologist Professor SKEAT, to a 120-year academic debate upon the origins and nature of the Henxmen and the surnames derived from their name.
  • Maxwell SUTHERLAND.  Spring 1961.  Case History of a Settlement.  The Dalhousie Review.  Volume 41.  Number 1.  Pages 65-74.  Dalhousie University.  Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Online URL:  https://dalspace.library.dal.ca/bitstream/handle/10222/62624/dalrev_vol41_iss1_pp65_74.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.  An interesting short study of the genesis and decay of the German communities in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, which were founded by German soldiers discharged from the British Army at the end of the American Revolutionary War.

Next . . .
  • Click on Beginnings to discover more about the meaning and origin of the Henxman job title.
  • Click on Family to discover what we know of the founding father of the HINXMAN family.
Webpage version 2019.1.  First version 2015.
Webpage c
opyright © Richard HINXMAN, 2015.
Illustration
Queen Elizabeth I
Original:  Unknown artist.  Oil on panel.  Circa 1585-1590.  Queen Elizabeth I.  37 1/2 in. x 32 1/4 in. (953 mm x 819 mm).  Given by wish of Sir Aston Webb, 1930.  National Portrait Gallery.  London, England.  Primary Collection.  NPG 2471.
Source:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AQueen_Elizabeth_I_from_NPG_(2).jpg.  Licence:  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0.

Comments