Recorded in many different spellings as shown below, this is an English surname but of pre 7th century Old Norse origins. It is or was found chiefly in the north western counties of England, which reflect the dense settlement of Scandinavian peoples in those areas in ancient times. The surname is locational, from places such as Aira Beck or Aira Force near Ullswater in Cumberland, or some other minor or unrecorded place also named with the Old Norse term "eyra", meaning a gravel-bank on a stream or river. Locational surnames were used particularly as a means of identification by those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere, and regional dialectal differences as well as varying standards of literacy frequently led to the formation of variant forms of the original name. In this instance, the modern surname forms range from Airey, Airy, Ayre(e) and Aery, to Erie, Eyre(e), Errey, Earie, Eary and Earey. Early examples of recordings include Clemens Erie (1576, Lancashire); Robert Erye (1584, ibid.); Thomas Eray (1591, Cumberland); and William Earee (1685, London). Amongst the recordings of the name in church registers are those of the christening of Anges Earay at Dacre, Cumberland, on September 19th 1633, and the marriage of Mary Eary and Benjamin Buskin on October 2nd 1726, at St. Bartholomew the Great, in the city of London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Hayra. This was dated 1301, in the "Inquisitiones Post Mortem", of Lancashire, during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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