Derived from the ancient Greek "Nikolaos", which translates as "victory-people", the name was very popular in Europe throughout the medieval period, largely as a result of the veneration of the 4th Century St. Nicholas of Lycia. There are an estimated three hundred variant spellings including patronymics ranging from Nichol, Nicolas,Nicolson, Nicholson and Nickless to Nigg, Nicoletti, and Mikulik. In the case of Nicholson, this is a famous patronymic, first recorded in Scotland, in the 15th Century, although one William Nicholai appears as early as 1219. The Nicholson's are amongst the most famous of all military surnames. Sir Francis Nicholson (1660 - 1728) being one of the earliest Governors of New England, whilst General John Mutiny (1856 - 1857), and Pilot Officer James Nicholson won the Victoria Cross in the Battle of Britain (July to October 1940) The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Michael Nycholson, which was dated 1443, in the "Land Charters of Cupar in Angus", during the reign of King James 11 of Scotland, 1437 - 1460. 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.