This unusual surname is English and a nickname. Originating from at least the 13th century, it is one of the survivors of a more robust period in history when people were given nicknames which became hereditary surnames. These 'names' often related to personal appearance and include well known examples such as Cruckshank or Barebones, although most of the really offensive examples have been lost. This name originally described a person either with a birthmark, or one bearing plague marks. The following quotations from early printings of the Oxford New English Dictionary, reads as follows; 'The markes of the plague, commonly called Goddes markes' (1558) and 'some with God's markes or tokens doe espie, those marks or tokens shew them they must die' (1630). The plague, called the Black Death, occured in England during the years 1348-49, but there evidently had been smaller plagues prior to this as the first recorded spelling of the name shows, with one William Godesmark, appearing in the Subsidy Tax Rolls of th county of Sussex in 1327. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Henry Godesmerk. This was dated in the year 1296, in the Pipe Rolls of Sussex during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, known as the Hammer of the Scots, 1272-1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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