This interesting surname, with variant spellings Cowtherd, Cowterd, Cowthart, Coutthart, Couthard etc., is particularly well recorded in Yorkshire church registers from the mid 16th Century, and is believed to be a Northern dialectal variant of the medieval English "Cowherde", itself coming from the pre 7th Century Old English "cuhyrde", from "cu", cow, plus "hierde", herdsman, and originally given as an occupational name to a tender of cattle. The earliest recorded forms of the surname include Thomas le Cutherde, (Essex, 1255), Adam le Couherd, (Kent, 1317) and John Cowherde (Worcestershire, 1327). On March 28th 1564 Nicholaus Cowtherd, an infant was christened in Howden, Yorkshire and on January 14th 1638 the marriage of Thomas Couthard to Ann Bedall was recorded in Holme upon Spalding Moor. Elizabeth Cowthart and Thomas Carr were married in Grinton in July 1666, and on August 21st 1722, Dorothy Cowthard married Edward Stephenson in Howden. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Anthonius Cowtherde, (christened), which was dated August 5th 1554, Howden, Yorkshire, during the reign of Queen Mary, known as "Bloody Mary", 1553 - 1558. 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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