It is usually difficult, if not impossible, to get behind the medieval meanings of surnames. This name derives from the Olde French "Coucou" and the Middle English "Cuccou" and assuming that words actually mean what they say, the name is a nickname for an "early bird". Quite why one should be so-called is un- clear, but it may refer to somebody who was a watchman, or who had a specific job which required early rising. There are many recordings of the name from the 12th century, and whilst it is true that the Middle ages were known for their extremely robust and crude humour, and is also true that most of the surnames of that nature, were changed centuries ago. Certainly nameholders were hardly likely to retain a name perceived to be derogatory. The early recordings include Gilbert Cuccu in the 1195 pipe rolls of Lincoln, and Gerald Cuckow in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Huntingdon. Later examples include David Cowckow, christened at the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, on November 3rd 1583, Bartholome Coockoo, son of William Coockoo, christened at St Margarets Church, Westminster, on August 27th 1634, and Elizabeth Cockoo, christened at the same church on May 31st 1642. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Warin Kuku, which was dated 1195, in the pipe rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "The Lionheart" 1189 - 1199. 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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