This is a surname of ancient Spanish and Portuguese derivations although its origins are believed to be Roman (Latin). 'Canto' in Latin means a singer or a song, but it is said that in this case the surname is from an earlier word (although of the same spelling) which described someone who lived in an area of stony or clay ground, or possibly an area from which building materials were extracted such as a quarry or pit. It is also claimed that the name may also be occupational and describe a stone mason or quarryman. 'Canto' can also be the Iberian spelling of 'Cantus' meaning 'the rim' of a wheel, suggesting that early name holders were wheelwrights, although the same word could also describe the corner of a street. Our view is that some nameholders will most definitely derive from ancestors who were singers, whilst some were probably wheelwrights or masons, and a few lived in houses on the corner of a street! There are a number of variant spellings including Cantos, Cantera, Cantero, Cantua, which seems to be specifically Mexican, Canti, (Spanish and Italian), and Cantu, a rare form. Early examples of the name recording taken from church records include Franchesca Canti of Olot, Gerona, on October 4th 1643, Juande Cantos at Santa Marina Alpera, Spain, on June 30th 1699, and Maria Apolinari Cantua, christened at Santa Ana, Orange County, California, on June 1st 1771. The ancient coat of arms granted in Spain has the blazon of - per pale chequy blue and silver and silver the ravens two in chief one in base, a red bordure charged with a semee of bezants and saltires. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Augustino Canto, which was dated September 26th 1597, christened at Nuesttra Senora de Antigua, Spain during the reign of King Phillip 111 of Spain, reigned 1598-1621. 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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