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About the study
Variants of Capon are those of of the bird itself; in Middle English sources Capun and Capoun are used for Capon, and they are the only variants found. In East Anglia and the Southeast Capon is almost invariable.
In Northern France 'de' and 'le' occur rarely.
Capen does occur outside the Eastern and Home counties, especially in Bedford and the southwest. It may simply represent a difference in local pronunciation.
Capin or Cappin is a Scottish name derived from Gaelic and the Appin district; some families have persisted in the original while others defaulted to Capon or evolved to Cappon.
The continental origin of the name is old Flanders, linguistically it is Wallonian. Capon was an undifferentiated surname when it first appeared in English records in the 13th century.
The bird provides the basis for the name, in whatever context; however it is ancient enough that the 'populated place' called Capon in the Province of Hainaut close to the Belgian/French border may be a locative source.
History of the name
Immigration to England began in the early 13th century, mostly as weavers but sometimes as mercenaries; possibly Bigod's Flemings helped to establish the local clustering.
The Capon family of Yorkshire, holding land of the Percy family and being the only armigerous branch, are frequently mentioned in 14th century documents. Robert assumed arms of Gules, three birds or, a border engrailed argent. Later documents refer to 'merchants of York' and they are not recorded later than early 15th century lay subsidies.
John Capon, bishop of Sarum during the Reformation, is reputed to have been the original 'Vicar of Bray'. He is notorious as the despoiler of Hythe Abbey; in contrast his brother bishop William founded grammar schools and supported similar undertakings. They were from East Anglia and proteges of Cardinal Wolsey.
Most Capons lived as yeomen, tradesmen, merchants and smallholders, and their disputes contribute a significant number of historical documents.
In England the name is rare in most parts of the country, but not uncommon in the South-east.
It is listed as 3607th in frequency.
In Nord, France it seems to be about equal to the English, and in Belgian Wallonia somewhat greater.
Distribution of the name
European Capons are plentiful about the region of origin and there has been wide dispersion to regions outside France; however, I am convinced that the Spanish Capons and Italian Capones derive from the Latin CAPUS and form a completely distinct name group.
For England Guppy came close; Suffolk has the greatest incidence,with Kent close behind. Density maps show this clearly, with East Anglia and the 'home counties' containing the majority.
Bedford and Dorset also have high densities but with a higher proportion of 'variants' than elsewhere.
Capons emigrated to most of the British dominions and colonies with ANZ being the favoured destination.
Some of these departures were involuntary.
With the IGI, Pallott and Boyd supplying the basics, my databases have doubled in size over the years.
Several of the census, and especially the 1881, are as complete as possible with the others exceeding 75% coverage. 1911 is well under way.
The GRO indexes are all complete into the 1980s with deaths leading the data entry sequence.
Many wills have been transcribed with others being added as they are accessed.
Hundreds of miscellaneous entries are recorded and more than forty family groups constructed.
The member has taken a yDNA-111 test, and a project has been established.
A Capon family from a different county has shown a common ancestor within 15 generations, and it would be interesting to see how much earlier the French and Netherlands Capon connection would be.