Last name: Bishop

This early and very interesting surname, popular throughout Europe, is of Ancient Greek, pre Christian, origins. It derives from the word "episkopos", translating as the overseer, from the elements "epi", meaning on or over, plus "skopein", to look. The early Christians adopted the word for the headman of their local communities, and from the 4th century a.d. it was applied to a religious leader. Derivatives of "episkopos" include for example "obispo", in Spanish, and "bischof" in German, and "yepiskop" in Russian.. However spelt, and there are over one hundred forms ranging from Bisp, Evesque and Vesque, to Vesco, Bischop, Yepiskopov, and Piscotti, the surname did not refer to a bishop as such. It was either occupational, and described somebody who served in the household of a bishop, or it was a nickname for a person who played the part of a bishop in the travelling theatres of the medieval period. In England there was the strange custom of electing a "boy bishop" on St. Nicholas's Day, the 6th of December, and some nameholders may well derive from that source. The earliest of all surnames and hence their recordings are in England and Germany. These date from the 12th century and examples include Thurstan le Byssop, of the county of Essex in the year 1240, and Berchtoldus Episcopus of Oberweiler, Germany, in 1296, and Haintz der Pischoffer of Tiefenbach, Germany, in 1396. The first recorded spelling of the surname anywhere in the world is believed to be that of Lefwinus Bissop, which was dated 1166, in the Pipe Rolls of the city of Nottingham, England. This was during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189.

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Mary Elizabeth Adair (nee Bishop)
I jut read your Surname Database for Bishop. I beg to differ of your dates and location of the origin of the Bishop surname in England. My family name is Bishop, it originated as early as 927AD in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England. The reason I know this is because up until my Aunt Anne Bishop (1894-1981) passed away, the Bishop Family in Malmesbury received a certain amount of money from the Crown each year because of a decree from King Athelstan who died in 939. We were given a part of the Common in Malmesbury as a gift from King Athelstan. I will paste a part of the transcript and a link to the website of the Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury. It had started out as eldest son to the eldest son and eventually it was amended to a Bishop Family member who had to physically live in Malmesbury to receive the stipend. My Aunt Annie was the last, however I am the last Bishop born with the name Bishop, the name now ends as I am female and had no brothers and live in Calgary Alberta, Canada. There are still direct descendants of other surnames still living in Malmesbury and still receive their allowance. Our Stipend reverted back to the Crown in 1981. I am proud of such a long family tree, a little more that 1,000 years. Thank you, Mary E Adair Malmesbury remembers this great king for the grant of land, five hides to the south west of the town (about 600 acres or 260 hectares.) This land is held by the Warden and Freemen of Malmesbury to this day. And he confirmed the charters from his father, Edward and his grandfather, Alfred. I, Athelstan, King of the English, on behalf of myself and my successors grant to my Burgesses and to their successors of the Burg of Meldufu that they may have and hold always all their tributes and free customs, as they held them in the time of King Edward, my Father, fully and in honour. And I enjoin on all beneath my rule that they do no wrong to these Burgesses, and I order that they be free from claims and payment of Scot And I give and grant to them that royal heath land of five hides near my vill of Norton, on account of their assistance in my Struggle against the Danes Athelstan died on 27th October 939 in his palace at Gloucester after only fourteen years on the throne - what a lot he achieved. He was buried at his beloved Malmesbury, where exactly is not known. The tomb in the Abbey is fifteenth century and is empty, but his name lives on in Malmesbury.

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