This unusual and interesting name, long associated with Yorkshire, is of medieval English origin, and is a topographical surname denoting residence by a hermit's cell. The derivation is from the Middle English "(h)ermite", hermit, and "stede", place, ultimately from the Old French "ermite", and Olde English "stede". The local pronunciation of the word "ermite" was "armit", hence the early phonetic spelling (Johannes de Armetstede, Yorkshire, 1379), which gave rise to three variant forms in the modern idiom: Armitstead, Armistead and Armstead. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided obvious and convenient means of identification in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Recordings of the surname from Yorkshire Church Registers include the christening of Agnes, daughter of John Armistead, at Horton in Ribblesdale, on January 27th 1559; the marriage of Janet Armistead to William Heaton at Giggleswick, on July 14th 1560; and the christening of Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Armstead, at Wetherby, on April 5th 1622. This English name first appears in the Irish Counties of Louth and Cork in the mid 17th Century, and has since been mainly established in north Tipperary and Offaly. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Laurencius del Armetsted, which was dated 1379, in the "Poll Tax Returns Records of Yorkshire", during the reign of King Richard 11, known as "Richard of Bordeaux", 1377 - 1399. 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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