This interesting surname, with variant spellings Airey, Airy and Ary, is of Scandinavian origin, and is locational from some minor places in Cumberland, for example, Aira Beck and Aira Force near Ullswater. The derivation is from the Old Norse "eyrara", gravel-bank stream. Airey may also be a topographical name for someone who lived by the river bank. The following examples illustrate the name development after 1301 (see below): John Ary (1617, Yorkshire); Christopher Airy (1647, Yorkshire); Robert de Ayrawe (1332, Cumberland); Christopher Arraye (1603); Jane Araye (1634); and John Airey Gill (1838). Locational surnames were developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually in search of work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace; while 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. Recordings from London Church Registers include the christening of Elizabeth Airey at St. Dionis, Backchurch, in 1634. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Hayra, which was dated 1301, in the "Post Mortem Inquisitions of Lancashire", 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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