This is a very interesting surname with a complicated origin. It derives either from a village such as Howsham in Lincoln or Howlish in Durham, or from a lost medieval place. The latter is not so unusual, some five thousand surnames are believed to have derived from places which no longer exist, and which disappeared as a result of plague, civil war, or the iniquitous Enclosure Acts of the 15th - 17th century. These Acts allowed the landlords to fence off the common grazing on which the tenants relied, forcing the unfortunate people to take to the roads in search of work. The majority that survived usually headed for the capital London, where they adopted or were given as their surname, the name of their former village. A combination of local dialect and poor spelling ensured the development of "sounds like" surnames. In this case the early recordings in the spelling as "Howship" are from London area, and in so far as it is translatable the name appears to mean "the place (hoh) of the sheep (sceap)" from the Olde English pre 6th century. This is a logical form, but unproven, and certainly not likely to apply to London itself, even in the 17th century. Early recordings include George Howshap, christened at St Thomas Square Independent Church, Hackney, on August 15th, 1771, and Thomas Howship, who married Jane Blomely at St Ann's Church, Soho, Westminster, on November 11th 1795, in the early years of the Napoleonic Wars (1794 - 1815). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Martha Howship, which was dated March 7th 1686, married William Barnes at St James Church, Dukes Place, London, during the reign of King James 11, known as "The last Catholic monarch" 1685 - 1689. 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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