This famous name is Scottish and late medieval. It is recorded in many spelling forms including Meiklejohn, Meaklejohne, Mecjklejohn, Mikijohn, Mikijon, Mikiljhone, and no doubt many others. It is also claimed to be descriptive not just for 'a big person', but a singular man one 'Mekle John' Burne - see below. In fact this is one of the rare cases where it can be proven that all persons now holding this name, and in the wide range of spellings it is several thousand world wide, all trace their origins back to this one man, a remarkable situation.The derivation is from the ancient Gaelic word 'meikill' meaning 'big or large', and although sometimes confused with the personal and surname 'Michael' there is no connection at all between them. English nickname surnames are often satirical, 'Little John' of Robin Hood fame should really have been called 'Big John' or perhaps 'Meikill John', but certainly with this name there is no argument 'Mekle John' is well recorded as being a big man. Examples of later recordings include William Meiklejohn in the muster of the laird of Glenurquay in 1638, and Thomas Meiklejohn was a baker in Dysart in 1678. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Mekle John Burne, which was dated 1495, in the register of Branxhelm, Liddesdale, during the reign of King James 1V of Scotland, 1485 - 1513. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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