This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is an example of that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. The nicknames were given in the first instance with reference to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, including supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or isposition, or to habits of dress and occupation. The surname derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "heorot", Middle English "hert", stag, male deer, and would have been given to a swift mover. The surname is first recorded in the mid 11th Century (see below) and can also be found as Harte, Heart, Hart and Hurt. Roger Hert is registered in the 1166 Pipe Rolls of Norfolk and Simon le Hert is noted in the 1197 Feet of Fines of Kent. In some cases the surname may be of Irish origin, and is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic "O'hAirt", composed of the elements "O", descendant of, with "Art", a byname meaning bear, hero. In 1599, Agnes, daughter of Henrie Hart, was christened at St. James', Clerkenwell, London. One of the earliest settlers in the New World was John Hart, aged 33 yrs., who departed from the Port of London, aboard the "Phillip", bound for Virginia in June 1635. There are no less than twenty Coats of Arms granted to this illustrious family, one of them being a shield divided per chevron blue and red, in chief a fountain and in base two gold hearts counter-trippant. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Aelfric Hort, which was dated circa 1060, in the "Olde English Byname Register", Hampshire, during the reign of King Edward, known as "The Confessor", 1040 - 1066. 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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