This interesting and unusual surname has two distinct possible sources, each with its own history and derivation. Firstly, Culp may be of early medieval Germanic origin, and a locational name from some minor spot called Culp(en) or Kulp(in), believed to be so called from the carp; hence, "lake or place where carp were trapped or raised". Alternatively, Culp may have originated as a nickname for someone who bore some fancied similarity to this fish, perhaps a bald man whose skull resembled the naked head of the carp.Early examples of the surname from Germany include: Von Kulpe (Culpen), Breslau, 1336; Von Culpen (Stralsund, 1340); and Johannes Kulpe (Schlettstadt, Elsass, 1450). On October 30th 1615, Cornelius, son of Wilhelm Culpe, was christened at St. Jacob, Sachsen, Chemnitz, and on March 27th 1811, Helena Culp was christened at Burgsteinfurt, Westfalen. In his work, "The Surnames of Scotland", George F. Black states that Culp is of locational origin from the small place named Colp near Turriff, Aberdeenshire, and quotes Johannes Coup, Aberdeen, 1408, as the earliest namebearer. In 1503, "a commone hande bell, with ale proffetis" was granted to William Colp and his son, David Colp. The name is also spelt Cup, Coup and Cope, suggesting derivation from the Saxon "cop", top, summit, or the Gaelic "colpa", unit of grazing land. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gerlach von Culpe, which was dated 1312, in "Early Medieval Records of Breslau", Germany, during the reign of King Henry V11 of Luxembourg, 1308 - 1313. 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.
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