This intriguing name is of early medieval English origin, and is one of that large group of early surnames that were created from the habitual use of a nickname. These were given in the first instance with reference to occupation, or to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition, or to habits of dress. In this instance the nickname was used originally of someone who was considered to be wayward, wild or capricious, derived from the Middle English word "gerysshe", fickle, changeable, wayward, a derivative of "gere", fit of passion, thought to be ultimately of Scandinavian derivation. The term has generated a number of modern surnames, such as Geary, Garry, Gear(e), Geer(e), Garrish, Gerish and Gerrish, the latter forms being found particularly in the West Country. The surname was first recorded in the late 13th Century (see below), and other early recordings include: William le Geriss (1275, Oxfordshire); Christina Gerygge (1327, Lancashire); and William Girisshe (1370, Oxfordshire). The marriage of Henry Gerrish and Mary Fish was recorded at St. Cuthberts' Wells, in Somerset, on September 1st 1715. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Umfrey le Gerische, which was dated 1275, in the "Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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