With many surnames there can be doubts as to the origin, or indeed origins. This is certainly not the case here as all recordings are to be found in one place, or even one church! The village of Altofts is near to Normanton in the former West Riding of Yorkshire, and all name holders are believed to descend from this one place. The village was first recorded in the land charters of Yorkshire for the year 1154 in the spelling of Altoftis, a form which loosely translates as "the old house". This is a derivation from the Olde English "eal" meaning old, and "toft or taft" - a croft or house. As a locational name it would have been given to the original name holders after they left "Altofts" and took up residence elsewhere. In the situation where a person moved a few miles the identity as in this case would be the village, but had he moved to another county or another country, then the identity could be more regional or even national. Mass movements took place in the late medieval period when as a result of the iniquitous Enclosure Acts, tenants lost their common grazing rights and were effectively forced to move to the main centres in search of work. In this case the original "Altofts" did not move very far, mainly if not entirely to Leeds. All the early name entries are for St Peters Church, Leeds. These recordings include Elizabeth Altoffe who married Richard Gaile on July 2nd 1587, and Jayne Altoft who married Jervis Inglebye on October 9th 1581. The name moved gradually south from the early 18th century Francis Altoft being christened at West Halton, Lincolnshire, on November 21st 1747, and Francis Altoft who married Anne Healey at Flizborough, Lincs, on November 16th 1737. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Edward Altoft, which was dated July 5th 1574, christened at St Peters Church, Leeds, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, 1558 - 1603. 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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