This most interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from a village so called in Lancashire, composed of the Olde English personal name "Earn", eagle, and the Olde English "halh", a nook, or "sceaga", a wood. In some cases, the name may be of topographical origin, denoting a dweller by the eagle-wood or nook, from the same derivation as above. Topographical names were among the earliest created, as both man-made and natural features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages, while, as migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification. Notable namebearers include Laurence Earnshaw (died 1767), who invented a machine for spinning and reeling cotton simultaneously in 1753, which he destroyed under the impression that it would lessen the demand for labour; and Thomas Earnshaw (1749 - 1829), who was the first to bring watches within the means of private individuals. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Erneschaghe, which was dated 1316, in the "Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield", Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 11, known as "Edward of Caernafon", 1307 - 1327. 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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