This interesting surname of medieval English origins. It is recorded in a wide range of spellings including Gater, Geater, Geter, Gayter, Gaitor, Gayther, Geator, and even Jator, with no doubt other versions as well. It has several possible origins. It may be tographical or locational, and as such originally described a person who lived or worked by a 'geat'. This was not normally a gate, but a road or street, the development being from the Norse-Viking pre 8th century word 'gata'. Some early recordings do come from the Viking walled city of York, where streets are often confusingly known as gates, whilst the actual gates are called bars. The second possible origin is that the name derives as a metonymic occupational name for a goatherd, from the Olde English pre 7th century 'gat' meaning goat plus the suffix '-er' implying a worker or in this case a herder. Another possibility is that the name could be a nickname for a stubborn or strong willed person, or one who was goatlike in attitude! The surname is first recorded in the early half of the fourteenth Century (see below) whilst John le Gotere is registered in Hampshire in 1333, and Robert Gayterd in the Friary Rolls of Yorkshire, in 1466. Early recordings of the surname from the church registers include: Johannes Geter of Marske, in North Yorkshire, on September 24th 1570, Richard Goater, who married Alice Shall, on August 22nd 1576, at Brading, in the Isle of Wight, and Carolus Gater, the son of Caroli Gater, who was christened at St Martins in the Field, Westminster, on November 2nd 1666. The coat of arms granted in London has the blazon of a gold field, charged with a fesse engrailed between three red cross crosslets fitchee. The crest is of a wolf sejant in gold. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Gater. This was dated 1301, in the Subsidy Rolls of the city of York, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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