This comparatively rare name is of early Medieval English origin, and is most likely to be a topographical surname denoting residence near or by a small shaw or wood or elder trees, derived from the Middle English 'eldre', elder (in Olde English, pre 7th Century, 'Ellaern'), with 'shaw', Olde English 'sceaga', a shaw, thicket, small wood or grove. However, the surname may also be of locational origin, from an unidentified or now 'lost' place in Staffordshire, since the name is first recorded there and is still found in that area more than any other.An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared from the maps in Britain, mostly due to the widespread 'clearing' of areas for sheep pastures in the 14th Century. The meaning and derivation from the place are as for the topographical interpretation. Elizabeth Eldershaw was married to Thomas Biddulph at Keele in Staffordshire on the 29th August 1582. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Johannes Eldershawe (christening), which was dated 21st September 1578, Barlaston, Staffordshire, 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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