There are many unusual surnames in the world, but 'Charity' is surely amongst the leaders. Its origins are Old French, the word as 'charitet' being introduced into England after the 1066 Norman Invasion. The meaning is far from clear, strictly speaking in medieval times a 'Charitet or Carite' was a hospice or refuge for the sick, and therefore the surname is probably locational for one who lived near such a place or it could be job descriptive for a charity worker or nurse. The locational origin must apply to Geofrey de la Carite in the 1185-87 Pipe Rolls of the county of Hampshire, but Turstan Charite in the 1195 Pipe Rolls of Norfolk is almost certainly a worker at a 'charity' or perhaps one who collected for charity. The famous English etymologist, the later Professor Reaney of Sheffield University, suggested that the name was a nickname in that the medieval meaning was taken as 'almsgiving', and certainly the later Puritans who christened their daughters 'Charity' had that meaning in mind. For most name holders their origins lie with the first two suggestions. Early examples of the recording include Richard Chaite of Lincoln in the register of the Guild of Corpus Christi for the City of York, and Robert Karitas in the 1236 Friary Rolls of Leicester. Later recordings include those of Sarah Charitie, the daughter of Frederick Charitie who was buried at St James Church, Clerkenwell, London on June 1st 1604, and William Charity, who married Emma Last in London on May 4th 1642, by civil license. The coat of arms granted in Switzerland has a blue field charged with three golden swords, the centre one point up, each surmounted by a gold trefoil. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Herluin Carite, which was dated 1148, The records of the Abbey of Bec, Sussex, during the reign of King Stephen, known as 'Stephen of Blois' 1135 - 1154. 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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