This unusual name, most frequently found in the West Country area of England, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and it is a good example of the medieval habit of creating a surname from a nickname, in this instance the nickname being for someone with particularly dark hair or with a dark complexion. The derivation of the name is from the Olde English pre 7th Century word "deorc", which in Middle English developed into "darke". A sizeable group of early European surnames were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These were given in the first instance with reference to occupation, or to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition, and to habits of dress. The surname was first recorded in the early 13th Century (see below), and other early recordings include: Richard Durk (1229, Somerset); Godewynus Derc (1230, Essex); and John Darke (1362, Gloucestershire). In the modern idiom the surname can be found recorded as Dark, Darke, Darkes and Durk. Recordings from London Church Registers include the marriage of Charlotte Dark and John Obee at St. George's, Hanover Square, in 1789. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Derck, which was dated 1221, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Warwickshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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