This interesting Scottish name, although recorded early in Scotland, is originally thought to be a locational surname from a place in Normandy, France, likely to have been introduced at the end of the 11th Century. It is interesting to note that there is also a Lake Gourlay in Ontario, Canada, which with its strong French Connection further substantiates this theory. During the Middle Ages when it became increasingly common for people to migrate, often to seek work, they would often adopt the placename as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. An early recording of a namebearer Alaim de Gourlay, occurs in 1304, when he appears as witness at Roxburgh, and in Edinburgh, one John Gourlay married Bessie Wilson on September 1598. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ingelramus de Gourlay, which was dated circa 1174, in Clydesdale and Lothian, Scotland, during the reign of King William, known as "The Lion", 1165 - 1214. 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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