This name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is locational from any of the several places thus called, for example Barlow in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire. The first named, recorded as "Bernlege" in Early Yorkshire Charters, dated 1030, and as "Berlai" in the Domesday Book of 1086, derives its first element from the Olde English pre 7th Century "bere(n)" meaning barley, plus "-leag", a clearing, hence, "clearing where barley grew". Barlow in Lancashire, appearing as "Berlawe" in the 1260 Assize Court Rolls of that county, is so called from the Olde English "bere", as before, plus "-hlaw", a hill; hence, "barley hill".The last named, recorded as "Barleie" in the Domesday Book of Derbyshire; contains the elements "bar", a boar, plus "-leie", from "leah", a clearing in a wood. Locational surnames were developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace. One Johannes de Berlowe appears in the 1379 Poll Tax Records of Yorkshire, and in 1584, a Thomas Barlow of Derbyshire was entered in the Oxford University Register. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas de Barlowe, which was dated 1260, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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