There are three possible sources of this unusual name, the first being that it is from an Olde Saxon byname 'Erpo', meaning dark and would have been given to a dark or swarthy complexioned person. Secondly it is possible that it is a dialectal variant from a metonymic occupational name 'erpel', which is a derivation of the Middle Low German 'erpel', a drake, and would have been given to a person who tended ducks. Lastly there is a likelihood that this surname is locational from a place called Erpel in the Rhineland, a name of pre-Germanic origin.Two early records of christenings in London of name bearers are: one Elizabeth Earp daughter of Jephery and Elizabeth on 20th September 1657, and on Mermeduke Earp, son of William and Mary Earp at St. Margarets, Westminster. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Erpe, which was dated Marriage Licence Records London, 1561, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, 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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