Last name: Purser

Recorded in various spellings including Purcer, Purser and Purse, this interesting surname has two possible origins. Firstly, it may derive from the Old English pre 7th Century word "purs" meaning purse, and would have originated as an occupational surname for someone who made or sold purses and bags or who may have been a treasurer of a royal or noble house, an official in charge of the expenditure. However when recorded in Scotland it is a developed form of the ancient Gaelic Mac Sparain meaning son of Sparan, a byname which means "purse". It is ancient with Adam Purs being recorded in Black's Dictionary of Scottish surnames as a "secular of Elgin cathedral in 1343". He was presumably an official but not a member of the clergy. Early recordings of the surname from surving church registers of the city of London include Elizabeth Purser, christened on January 6th 1562, at the church of St. Mary at Hill; whilst on September 25th 1569, the marriage of Georgius Purse to Margata Rumforth took place at St. Andrew's, Enfield. A coat of arms granted to the family consisted of six silver trefoils (three leaved flowers) with stalks on a red shield and on the crest a gold bull. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Derewin Purs. This was dated 1176, in the Pipe Rolls of Buckinghamshire, during the reign of King Henry 11nd of England, known as "The Builder of Churches" 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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