From all the evidence I have gathered, it appears that the names Tinlin and Tinline originated in Roxburghshire, Scotland.  It also seems increasingly likely that all families carrying these names descend from just a few families, possibly just one.  In the late 17th century, there were two main families, one in Ancrum, and one in Hawick (both in Roxburghshire).  Unfortunately, the parish registers for Ancrum only begin in 1703, so some other source will need to be found if the family can be traced back any further.  The Hawick registers begin earlier (christenings in 1634 and marriages in 1699), with the earliest Tinlin entry there being in 1669.  This would indicate that the Hawick family was living elsewhere before that date.  There are earlier Tinlin(e) records in Melrose and Jedburgh and these may be the original families that later left and went to Hawick and Ancrum.  There is certainly evidence that the two families knew each other, as there was at least one marriage between them (Walter and Anne in 1723).


Descendants of the Ancrum family have generally kept the spelling Tinline, and include families now living in Roxburghshire, Northumberland, Lancashire, and virtually all the families in Canada.  I have had less success tracing the descent of the Hawick family, although it appears to include my own family, which first appeared in Kirkwhelpington, Northumberland in 1730.  Most of them did leave Hawick, as there are fewer and fewer entries for them in the Hawick registers as the 18th century progresses.


Whether or not the name Tinling is the same as Tinlin(e) is not as certain.  The names are often written interchangeably in the records, and the Tinlings are found in the same general area as the Tinlin(e)s (the Borders region).  Most Tinlings can be traced back to Cumberland, England, with the earliest records showing them in Hayton (near Brampton) and Burgh-on-Sands.  The family in Burgh-on-Sands seems to have arrived there about 1680.  The names of the first couple there, Andrew and Margaret, make me wonder if they came from Scotland.  But the Hayton family was in that village by 1623 and possibly earlier, so they could be native to the area.  Many of the Tinling families eventually changed their name to Tinning and the two names are used interchangeably in many cases.  There are also a few Tinling families found elsewhere, such as Haltwhistle, Northumberland (on the border with Cumberland), and in Norham, Northumberland (on the border with Scotland).  Tinling families in Suffolk, and the Isaac Tinling family of Minorca also appear to be originally from Cumberland.


Regardless of place, the spelling of the names is often fluid, with the same individual being found as Tinline in Roxburghshire, but Tinling in Dumfriesshire.  My own family switched back and forth between Tinlin and Tinling.  The family of Norham apparently split into two branches, one Tindle or Tindell, and one Tinling or Tindling.  And, as mentioned above, the Cumberland families often used the spelling Tinning, as well as Tinnion.  I’ve found the name in various records under Tinlan, Tinley, Tingling, Finling, and even Finland, to name just a few.


In any case, the names are quite rare, and it is interesting to speculate where they might have originally come from.  Two correspondents, one in England and one in Scotland, wrote me that they had always been told that their ancestors were from Cornwall, and one thought they were from France before that.  I can’t say that I’ve seen any evidence for these theories.  There is a surname Tinklin that is common in southwestern England, however, and there are Tinland families in France.


My family, and a few other individuals I have spoken too, were under the impression that it was a Scandinavian name.  The names Tenlin and Tenlen are found there, and I think it is plausible that a young Scandinavian man may have brought his family to Scotland at some point.  This might help explain the rarity of the name.


The names (under various spellings) do show up in a few scattered references in early parish registers of the mid-1500’s in London, in Durham, and in Hexham, Northumberland.  At this early date, the name is often spelled with the letter y, as in Tynlyne.  These appear to be simply a few Tinlins who wandered away from home, rather than concentrations of the family.  They certainly can’t be traced any further.


I have an old statement by a Scottish name specialist saying that the name was found in Roxburghshire in the 1400’s, although he didn’t give any details and I have never found any record for the name that old.  Although I had heard that a Tinlin was created the first Cornet of Hawick, this doesn’t appear to be true, as no Tinlin is in the list of Cornets from 1703 to the present.  The title cornet was given to the bravest of the young unmarried men in Hawick, and was in celebration of a victory by the men of Hawick over the English in a skirmish at Hornshole following the Battle of Flodden in 1513.  I believe that I even read somewhere that a Tinlin had “carried the [English] flag home from Hornshole”, but there doesn’t appear to actually be a list of the Hawick men who took part in the skirmish, as far as I can tell.


The official Scottish clan site says that we are a sub-clan of Clan Scott (see their site).  A Sir Watt Tinlinn was said to have been the guard of a tower in Liddesdale for the Scott family, Dukes of Buccleuch.  Sir Walter Scott uses him as a character in “The Lay of the Last Minstrel” and remarks in a note that he was a real-life person who was frequently the hero of tales told by the fire.


Even today, all three names are very rare.  My census extracts show that there are probably not more than a few hundred individuals with the names living at any one time, worldwide.  I have been contacted by individuals with these names from Scotland, England, Ireland, Canada, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.


Eventually I would like to conduct a DNA project with participants from all the different branches, to determine if the names all really do originate with a single family.  The price for such a project is still a bit expensive though, about $200 per participant.