Recorded as Cato, Cattow, but more usually Catto, this is an Anglo Scottish medieval surname. It is said to be found mainly in the Buchan district of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, but in fact in very small numbers is recorded in many parts of the British Isles. It is locational either from Catto, a hamlet in the Landmoth cum Catto parish near Northallerton in the North Riding of Yorkshire, or from a now "lost" village called Catto or Cattow in Aberdeenshire, the remnants of which are covered by the Cattofield reservoir. The component elements of the name are believed to be the Olde English pre 7th Century "Catta", a personal byname from "catt", meaning wild cat, and the Norse word "oe" or simply "o", meaning an island. Some five thousand surnames of the British Isles are believed to originate from now lost places, and this is possibly another example. Early examples of recordings include that on February 5th 1576 of Isbell Cattow and Wilyem Duncan who were married at St. Nicholas', Aberdeen, and in England that of Thomas Cato of Crimble, near Cartmel in Lancashire, on December 9th 1604. The first recorded spelling of the family name may be that of Andrew Cathoch, as spelt, of Aberdeen in 1463. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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