The Anglo-Saxon surname Kenyon geographical in origin derived from a location near Warrington. It is also believed the name may be an Anglicized version of the Irish Gaelic MacCoinin, a patronymic name meaning “son of Coinin”. The name Coinin is a derivative of the word “cano” meaning wolf.
Surnames in Europe prior to the mid-sixteenth century were largely unheard of outside of the noble class. In the small settlements and villages which existed during earlier times, residents found little need for surnames as everyone in these communities new each other and a given name would usually suffice. However, with the passage of time, population growth and expansions of communities as villages gave way to towns and cities, it became necessary to add a qualifier to a people’s names to distinguish them, one from another. Therefore one person may have been identified by their given name plus their occupation while another may have been identified by their given name and one of their parent’s names. The introduction of surnames after the medieval era seemed to be the next logical step in this evolution. There was a boundless supply from which surnames could be formed, in addition to the use of patriarchal/matriarchal names or reference to the individuals occupation, there were things such as defining physical traits, a familiar geographical location or a topographical landmark found near the individuals home or birthplace, the name of the village in which the person lived. Surnames also served an additional role by allowing governments a more effective way of keeping records for census, taxation, and immigration records.
These official records often contained variations in spelling of many surnames. The variation in spelling during this time period can be attributed to a lack of continuity regarding guidelines for spelling which was compounded by the diversity of languages in use in European countries at this time. The variations in the spelling of the surname include but not limited to; Kenyon; Kennion; and Kenion among others.
An early record of any variation of this surname is that of Robert de Kenien which appears in the Somerset tax rolls dated 1212. These rolls, were a series of census and tax records kept by the English Treasury by order of King Henry III, with the oldest dating back 700 years to the 12th century. They hold the distinction of being the oldest consecutive set of records detailing English governance in the United Kingdom.
One of the first recorded immigrant to America bearing the surname or any variation of the spelling was Henry Kenyon who arrived in 1795 and settled in Philadelphia. James Kenyon landed and settled in New York, NY in 1834 and William Kenyon arrived and settled in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in 1835.
There were also many immigrants to the British Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand. John Kenyon landed in 1849 and settled in South Australia. Sisters, Mary and Rose Kenyon arrived in 1861 and settled in Auckland, New Zealand.
Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Kenyon are found in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada. By state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Kenyon live in New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming.
There are many persons of note who bear the surname Kenyon. Lord Kenyon, Baron of Gredington was a title created in the Peerage of England in 1788 for lawyer and judge, Sir Lloyd Kenyon, 1st Baronet. Kenyon served as Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and as Master of the Rolls. Six members of the Kenyon family have born the title, with the heir apparent the Honorable Lloyd Tyrell-Kenyon in line to assume the title of 7th Baron when the time comes.
Herbert Hollick-Kenyon was a British born aircraft pilot. He was a pioneer in and made significant contributions regarding aviation in Antarctica. He also served as pilot on numerous search and rescue missions for polar expeditions.
American born Cynthia Kenyon is a molecular biologist who is noted for her pioneering research involving aging and DNA. Kenyon received her education at the University of Georgia and received her Ph.D. In 1981 from MIT.