It’s generally assumed the surnames Warren and Warne have different origins. The surname dictionaries state that Warren is either from a placename in Normandy or a name for someone living near or working in a game park. Warne is supposed to be from a placename in Devon. The same sources tell us Wearne is a spelling variant of Warne, although some Cornish language enthusiasts claim it (and even Warne) comes from the Cornish word gwern, for alder trees or an alder swamp.
In my The Surnames of Cornwall I plumped for another possibility, suggesting that all of these surnames may originally have stemmed from the first name Waryn. There’s only one problem with this, however. Waren/Waryn/Warin only appeared as a first name in ten parishes in Cornwall in the tax lists of the 1520s/40s, with half of those in just one parish -Wendron – and most of the rest in neighbouring parishes. Undaunted, I note that David Postles in The Surnames of Devon states that Waren was a ‘less usual’ first name in the 1300s, but one that nonetheless gave rise to one of the more common surnames of early sixteenth century Devon – Waren or Warren. Others have claimed that the first name Waren/Waryn may have been transferred from the surname, although this seems unlikely given its early incidence in Devon.
What does the early geography of these names in Cornwall tell us, if anything? In the tax lists of the 1520s/40s we find three parishes with Warne, six with Waren, two with Waryn and three others with both Waren and Waryn. There were no examples of either Warren or Wearne in these lists. Here are the maps for all incidences of each spelling in the parish registers of the 1500s. Do they help us unravel these names? What do you think?