This is an English medieval surname, but of ancient pre 7th century Danish-Viking origins. It is locational and derives from the village now called Fearby in the county of North Yorkshire. In the famous Domesday Book of 1086 commissioned by King William 1st of England and known in history as The Conqueror, the village is recorded in the spelling of Federbi, and later in the Pipe Rolls of the North Riding of Yorkshire for 1184 as Fetherby. It seems from these recordings that with this surname we have a rare situation where the village name has undergone considerable transposition, whilst the surname has remained more or less the same. According to the "Dictionary of English Place Names", the village name and hence the later surname means "Beautiful farm", from the Old Norse words "fegro bi", and this seems correct. It would not be an unreasonable description even of the modern village, which has retained most of its original features, when so many villages have been blighted by appalling agricultural excesses. Fearby village has for many years formed part of the Swinton Estate, and it is said that the ownership can be traced back to one Ralph de Fecherbi, who was recorded in the Knight Templars (crusader) roll for Yorkshire in 1185. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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