This interesting name of Medieval English origin is locational from places so called in Essex, Kent and Leicester, but rather curiously was well recorded in Yorkshire from the earliest times. It is derived from the Old English elements '(ge)heald', a shelter or stable for animals, and 'stede', a place or building, thus a place of shelter for cattle. Halstead in Essex is first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Haltesteda' in the Feet of Fines of 1202 as 'Haudested' and in 1218 as 'Haldstede'. The place in Kent appears as 'Halsted' in the Feet of Fines of 1201 and Halstead in Leicester as 'Elstede' (Domesday Book of 1086). During the Middle Ages people migrating from their places of birth would often adopt the village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. Examples of the surname recording include Adam Hallestede and Ricardus Hallestedes in the 1379 Poll Tax Rolls for Yorkshire, they are entered as a Webster and an Osteler respectively. In 1587 John Halsteede (goldsmith) married Anne Lea by civil licence in London, whilst Richard Halstead, in 1618 appears on the entry register for Oxford University. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ralph de Halsteda, which was dated 1181, in the Poll Tax Records, Suffolk, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as 'The Builder of Churches', 1154-1189. 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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