This unusual name is of early medieval origin, and is a locational surname from the place called 'Firbank' in Westmoreland, now Cumbria. In the Close Rolls of 1230 the placename is recorded as 'Frithebenk' showing its derivation from the Olde English pre 7th Century 'fyrhth', frith, wood, woodland, and in Middle English 'firth', with Middle English 'banke', bank, ridge, or slope, the whole name meaning 'hill in a frith or woodland': Firbank Fell reaches 1,040 feet. Locational names were usually given to those former inhabitants of a place who moved away to live or work in another area. The modern surname can be found as 'Firbank' or 'Furbank'. One Bartholomew Furbank was an early emigrant to the New World, leaving London on the 'Thomas' in August 1635, bound for Virginia. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry Firthbank, which was dated 1470, Register of the Freeman of the City of York, during the reign of King Edward IV, The Self-Proclaimed King, 1461 - 1483. 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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