This unusual and interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is habitational from a now "lost" place in the parish of Prescot, in Lancashire. An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared in Britain since 1100, due to such natural disasters as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, or to the widespread practice of "clearing" large areas of land to make sheep pastures during the height of the wool-trade in the 15th Century.The placename is derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century "four", four, "ocs", oak, and "sceaga", a copse, thicket, or wood"; hence "four oak wood". The placename was first recorded as "Fourocshags" in 1315, and as "Fauroshaw" in 1446. The modern surname can be found recorded as Forshaw, Fershew, Forshae, Forshawe and Foreshaw. Recordings from Lancashire Church Registers include: the christening of Thomas, son of Robert Forshaw, on January 21st 1561, at Kirkham, the marriage of Henry Forshaw and Ellen Whitehead on January 26th 1577, also at Kirkham; and the marriage of Eduard Forshaw and Elizabetha Southworth on January 28th 1620, at St. John's, Preston. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Forshaw, which was dated September 8th 1542, christened at Kirkham, Lancashire, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Good King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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