This is one of the famous surnames of the Christian world. Recorded in over one hundred and sixty spellings including examples such as Stephen (English), Etienne (French), Esteve and Estevez (Spanish and Catalonian), Stefano (Italian), Steffen (German), Tschepe (Czech), and found in every European country, it is one which is ultimately of Ancient Greek origin. However spelt it derives from the word "stephanos", meaning crown or wreath. The name is found in England before the Norman Conquest of 1066, but only as a monk's name in its Latin form of "Stefanus", and as such is recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086. The name became popular throughout Christendom in the Middle Ages, partly due to the fame of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who was stoned to death at Jerusalem, three years after the death of Christ. The personal name was also borne by King Stephen of England, known as the "Count of Blois", where he was born. He ruled from 1135 to 1154. There are so many forms and so many recordings of the surname in every country, it is only possible to give the earliest known examples taken from surviving charters and registers. These include Robert Stephen, who was a witness at the assize court of the county of Cheshire, England, in the year 1260, Oswald Steffanssun of the Tirol in 1454, and Heinrich Stephi of Chur, in Germany, in 1437. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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