It has to be said that the origins of this name are open to some conjecture. That it is a developed form of the late Medieval "Deft" is probable but not wholly proven, and equally its source in the spelling of "Defty" would seem to be Gateshead, in the original county of Durham, but again this is not proven. What can be said is that the early 18th century recordings seem to emanate from the North east of England, and that it is a patronymic or diminutive of "Deft". This name itself is a development of the surname "Death" a surname that was originally a nickname for an actor who played the part of "death" in the travelling theatres of the 14th century.However it is also claimed that "Deft" derives from the town of "Ath" in Belgian, (de Ath) an area associated with the Flemish Weavers, and this would have an air of logic. It is also possible that the name originates from the Olde English "dyth" - a job description for a timber merchant, "dyth" meaning fuel or timber. What seems to be the situation is that the first name holder may have been James Defty, who is recorded many times in Gateshead from November 3rd 1709, when he was a christening witness, although the name probably derives originally from London as shown below. Other recordings are Richard Defty who married Mary Clements at All saints, Newcastle on June 19th 1806, and Lily defty, who married Herbert Oliver at Camberwell Registry Office on February 22nd 1902. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Stephen Defte, which was dated January 28th 1593, married Isabell Addison at the church of St John the Apostle, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess" 1558 - 1603. 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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