There is no proof without evidence
THE SKINNER NAME
SKINNER, an English surname, is obviously an occupative name, derived from the occupation of skinner, meaning simply, a dealer in skins, furs, and hides, and is often spelled SKYNNER. The surname SKINNER is like a large class of English trade and business names like butcher, baker, chandler, merchant, brewer, etc., and was probably adopted by its original bearer at the time of the adoption of surnames in England, about the Thirteenth Century or thereafter. It is found on ancient records in the various forms of
SCKYNNER, SKINER, SKYNER, SKYNIAR, SKYNNAR, SKYNNER, SKYNNERE,
and SKINNER, of which the last is the generally accepted form of today. (1, 2, 3, 6, 7) Also, a Danish name meaning the Keeper of Robes, or skins then worn. (http://www.videos.supanet.com/origins.html)
Before it became a surname, SKINNER was used to identify a man who treated animal skins in a tanyard. The word itself derived from the Middle English "skynnere" and the Old Norman "skinnari." Rather than alluding to the act of skinner, the name signified he act of flaying skins after they had been removed from the animal. (12)
In the ancient English records, the name is often Latinized to PELLIPARIUS. (1)
In the olden days, "skinners" were absolutely essential to economic life, and those bearing the name naturally held a correspondingly high position in the community. (1)
The name appears in the old archives in many curious forms, and from the many instances of "skynnere" it is seen that this was the original spelling. (1)
The prefix "le" meaning simply "the" shows the French influence following the Norman Conquest of Saxon England in 1066 AD by William the Conqueror, and was dropped before the Fifteenth Century. (1)
Families of the name were to be found at early dates in the English counties of Oxford, Somerset, York, London, Lincoln, Hereford, Worcester, Sussex, Devon (which lines united with the COLBY family), and Essex, and were, for the most part, of the landed gentry and yeomanry of Great Britain. (7)
James Skinner is developing a Skinner surname website at Wikpedia:
From: Dolan, J. R. "Group 82 Producers of Rawhide." English Ancestral Names; the Evolution of the Surname from Medieval Occupations. New York: C.N. Potter; Distributed by Crown, 1972. 164. Print.
“SHINNER through SKYNNER were clearly men in the business of selling rawhide to others who would turn them into leather. Though a man could acquire one of these names by simply developing some skill in taking the skin off a carcass, it is far more probable that a man would have to be clearly associated with that process for some time to acquire the name permanently. The animals were usually slaughtered on the farms by a BUTCHER and skinned by a SKINNER; then the hides were sold to the TANNERS, the BARKERS, or the TAWYERS. Over the years, middlemen tried to set themselves up in business, but they never really succeeded.
PELL through PELLY probably meant exactly the same as the SKINNER names, pel being a Norman word for “skin” or “pelt.” PELTER and PILTER can also mean SKINNER but may have been applied as well to a man handling skins with the hair left on them, that is, fur.
All the FELL Names, ending with FELPOLLARE, came just a bit later than the PELL and SKINNER names, as they clearly referred to dealers in skins and pelts. We find a Robert le Felur in 1275 and a Mabel Felmonger in 1332.”
See also, SKU 5(4).
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION September, 2012:
Interesting website and view on the Skinner name.
Here is a website for you.
It may be that the surname Skinner appears on England but it is not exclusively and English name. The name Skinner, as an occupational name was known in Scotland with the same sort of heritage as the name in England.
However, in the North East Highlands of Scotland it appears that the name may well be one derived from another Scandinavian name, possibly very similar to Skinner and having a close meaning. Throughout Rossshire, Sutherland and Caithness there are names which have clear links with the Vikings or Danes.
This is put forward as an alternative source of the name in Scotland and is not definitive.
SKINNER's Scotland Clan Connection (contributed by Richard W. Gregg, Clan Gregor) SKINNER is not only a known alias of Clan Gregor (McGregor) but is periodically documented in historical works and family notes of being one and the same.
Although an apparent occupational name (which many of Clan Gregor frequently used among others) skinning was a definite occupation of the cattle trading Clan Gregor of Perthshire and Trossack Highlands. When the persecution of the very name McGregor was brutally enforced in 1603, many changed their surnames (if they even used one) to whatever suited their needs and occupational skills, thus thwarting further conflicts from bounty hunters and such.
There is a lot of history in this Clan and SKINNERs make up a few chapters themselves. We have been finding more and more Clan Gregor connections and are already well over 120 well documented aliases. One of the original researchers in all this was a Lynn SKINNER out of L.A. who abruptly died in his early 30's before work and foundation were complete. The infinitely wise Sheila McGregor of Edinburgh and others have for the last 15 years been compiling all known notes and histories of Clan Gregor which will now be published for the first time on the WWW. Check out the Clan Gregor Centre pages.
Oddly, the 'official' Clan Gregor Society from Scotland does not recognize many aliases in America or Canada even though this is were the bulk of the clan remnants reside. One has to keep in mind that the earliest settlers to New England and Virginia in the 17th and early 18th century were mainly Scottish or Irish or German. Many were prisoners and/or slaves. Outside of the Puritans, English did not, nor was it necessary to, migrate except in brief trips for business purposes. Quakers were Welsh, Irish, German and predominately Scottish prior to 1690's.
NOTE: 19 Feb 2000
Naturally we have to be careful when such names would be septs of other clans [eg Drummond, Graham) etc - we ask for some documentary evidence which I think is only realistic, and we get it [e.g. for Drummond, Skinner, etc etc]
Additional by Shelia Mc Gregor:
As for the origins of the family, they are traditionally Clan Gregor, and there are odd references through the eighteenth century to the use of Skinner as a surname. They are not all directly related as far as I can see. That said, it is evident that the name was used by other families, but I'm not sure enough is known.
My theory has always been that this is a name adopted by a McGregor, or several, living in a burgh town, since it is a trade name and an English name. Recently I found that the McGregors in Perth, a burgh town of this kind, were all formally requested in 1603 to change their names. I have no evidence that any of them used Skinner and I know that one used Johnston, but some such process is almost certainly to have produced the name Skinner, more probably in Aberdeen since there seems to be a concentration of them there. McGregors had trade links with all the burghs, being much involved in the cattle trade. One finds them particularly as butchers so a skinner is the next thing. They were also often shoemakers; none of them very salubrious tasks but profitable. I just found a name in Gaelic supposedly 'tanner' but can't find the Gaelic word. Duletrik is the spelling, much garbled no doubt. Perth was noted for its fine leather gloves and produced thousands of pairs every year at some time. That would require a great deal of leather. There are these small pointers but no firm history as yet. Maybe you can fill in some of the gaps.
I might add that this is true of a great many McGregor families, that I have been assessing these stories for more than ten years now, that many have been confirmed in that time, that many have had a bit of information added, and that none has been revealed as fraudulent or mistaken. On the contrary, more and more possible sources of McGregors turn up, names which have been lost, like Anderson, Dougalson and McTavish, all Lochtayside. The first two have been claimed, by one individual each, and sure enough turn up as McGregors in records c.1600 and in the same location in records of 1769 and in the parish registers, though not by then recognized as Clan Gregor. So there is a lot of evidence, if nothing very conclusive even with these quite large localized families.
When they start moving around, then it gets more difficult of course.
Additional Information from: Ed Skinner, Integrated Systems Inc. Phoenix Arizona USA E-mail: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org Web: Ed Skinner, Integrated Systems Inc.
According to some sources, the Skinner name may be derived from Skene. This name has a much more interesting derivation than a tanner of hides or mule team driver.
In "The Origin and Signification of Scottish Surnames With a Vocabulary of Christian Names" by Clifford Stanley Sims, Avenel Books, NY, 1969 (a reissuance of a book of the same title published in 1862) is the following description on page 92:
"Some derive their names as well as their arms from some considerable action, and thus a son of Struan Robertson, for killing a wolf in Stocket forest in Athole, in the king's presence, with a dirk, received the name of Skene, which signifies a dirk, and three dirks points in pale, for his arms." Ian Grimble writes in "Scottish Clans and Tartans" that this event took place in the 11th century and that "... the Skenes are an exceptionally early sept of Clan Donnchaidh, long before it adopted the name of Robertson." In other references I've come across (but which I can't locate at the moment), the knife is referred to as a "sgain dhu" which means "black dirk." This is a small, bone-handled knife traditionally carried in the top of the Scotsman's sock. It was sometimes the weapon of choice for a quick slit of an Englishman's throat after the carrying of swords and other weapons were banned in Scotland. According to other reports of the same story quoted above, the Scottish king was hunting with several others when a wolf attacked the party. The Scotsman in question drew his skaen dhu, grappled with the wild creature at the risk of his own neck, and dispatched the beast. The king honored the hero by naming him "Robertson of the Sgain Dhu." The family carried the appellation forward into succeeding generations and it eventually became the Skinner name we know today. (Submitted by Edward Draper Skinner, email@example.com)
In other languages, Skinner can be:
Le Cuirot: French
1. American Biography. (1926). 26:129.
2. American Biography. (1931). 47:201.
3. Americana (American Historical Magazine). 26:550.
6. Cutter. Genealogical and Family History of the State of Connecticut (Volume 3). Page 1650.
7. -. Media Research Bureau. NC.
12. Bolesta-Koslowski, R.A. (1986). Red Field - White Eagle: An Introduction to Polish Surnames. Polish Genealogical Society Newsletter, 9(2), 37.
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