This interesting and unusual surname is of Old Scandinavian origin, and is a locational name from a place so called in Cumberland, or some minor place of the same name, for example, Fothergill Well in Yorkshire. The placename is composed of the Old Norse "foethr", meaning fodder, forage, and the Old Norse "gil", a ravine, narrow valley, a common placename element in the north-west, also found in Gaisgill, Howgill and many others. During the Middle Ages when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. Early examples include William Futhergill (1583) and John Fothergill (1611), in the Register of the Freemen of the City of York. John Fothergill (1712 - 1780) kept one of the finest botanical gardens in Europe at Upton, Essex, and assisted Benjamin Franklin in drawing up a scheme of reconciliation with the American colonies in 1774. Anthony Fothergill (1732 - 1813) received a gold medal from the Royal Humane Society in 1794 for his essay on the revival of persons apparently dead from drowning. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry Fodyrgll, which was dated 1514, in the "Coroner's Roll of Nottinghamshire", 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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