This curious surname is of early medieval English origin, and is a locational name from the parish and town thus called south west of Norwich in Norfolk. Recorded variously as "Dice" in the Domesday Book of 1086; as "Dize" in the 1158 Pipe Rolls of that county; and as "Disce" in 1191, the place was so called from the Olde English pre 7th Century "dic", ditch, moat, wall of earth, dike (often referring to a prehistoric dike). The change of "c" to "s" is due to a Norman pronunciation of the Middle English "diche", from "dic" (as above). Locational surnames, such as this, were originally given to local landowners, and the lord of the manor, and especially as a means of identification to those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere. Early examples of the name include: William de Diss, rector of Denton, Norfolk (1317); Richard de Dysse, rector of Chatgrave, Norfolk (1350); and Thomas Dysse, vicar of Necton (1546). An interesting early bearer of the name was Walter Diss, D.D Cambridgeshire, who was named papal legate by Pope Urban V1 in 1386, and wrote several theological works in manuscript prior to his death in 1404. The surname is now particularly well recorded in the Halstead area of Essex, where on May 25th 1708, John, son of John and Mary Diss, was christened at St. Andrew's Church. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Disse, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Essex", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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