This most unusual and interesting name has a number of possible origins. Firstly, it may be of early medieval English origin, and one of a sizeable group of modern surnames that were created from a nickname given to someone who played the part of a personified figure - in this case, the figure of Death - in a pageant or medieval mystery play. Other such names surviving today are King, Knight and Angel. The derivation for this source is from the Olde English "death", Middle English "de(e)th", death. Secondly, the surname may be a medieval metonymic occupational name for a gatherer or seller of kindling wood, tinder, from the Middle English "dethe", fuel, tinder, from the Olde English "dyth". Lastly, but unlikely to be the source for many modern bearers of the name, it may be of Belgian locational origin, from the place called "Ath", with the fused preposition "de". The surname from all of these sources has a variety of forms, ranging from Death, Deeth and Dearth to D'Eath, D'Eathe, De Ath, D'Aeth, De Att and De Atta. The marriage of Alicia d'Atte and John Marshall was recorded at St. Andrew's, Enfield, on September 9th 1562. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gerardus de Athia, which was dated 1208. in the "Gloucestershire Curia Rolls", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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