Agate in its simplest sense is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is derived from a topographical name for someone who lived by a gate, the first element represents the Olde English pre 7th Century prefix "atte-", at. The second element derives from the Olde English "gatu", meaning gate, hence, "at the gate". Gate was often used in Northern Middle English to describe a road or thoroughfare, a usage quite similar in form and meaning to the Scandinavian "gata", road. In a broader sense the name is occupational, as it often refers to the gate of a town or estate, thus the name may describe someone who worked at a gate, i.e., a watchman. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages, while job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. Recordings from London Church Registers include: John Agutt, a christening witness at St. Giles' Church, Cripplegate, on January 21st 1643, whilst on February 15th 1729, Thomas Agate was recorded at St. Mary's, Whitechapel, Stepney. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Adam Ategate, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Huntingdonshire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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