This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from some minor, unrecorded or now "lost" place, believed to have been situated in Nottinghamshire or Leicestershire where the name is most popular. An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared since the 12th Century, due to such natural causes as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, and to the widespread practice of enforced "clearing" and enclosure of rural lands for sheep pastures from the 15th Century onwards. The placename is believed to derive from the genitive case of the Olde English pre 7th Century byname "Beard", from the vocabulary word for a beard, with "leah", wood, glade, clearing, hence, "Beard's wood". Early recordings of the name include the marriage of Jese Beardsle and Edward Weze on February 26th 1575, at Carlton by Market, Bosworth, Leicestershire, and the marriage of Joan Beardsley and Thomas Weston at Gedling, Nottinghamshire, on April 16th 1604. William Beardsley, a mason, aged 30 yrs., was an early emigrant to New England, leaving London on the "Planter" in April 1635. A famous namebearer was Aubrey V. Beardsley (1872 - 1898), an English illustrator noted for his stylized black and white illustrations, especially for Oscar Wilde's "Salome". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Beardsley, which was dated November 28th 1573, marriage to Joane Ulsecroft, at Ashby De la Zouch, Leicestershire, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 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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