Recorded in over five hundred forms and found throughout Europe and parts of the Middle East, this most interesting surname derives from the ancient Hebrew given name Yaakov, the later Jacob or Jakob. The name means "following-after", as in the biblical story Jacob was the name of the twin brother of Esau, who took advantage of the latter's hunger and impetuousness to persuade him to part with his birthright "for a mess of potage". The surnames James and Jack share the same origins and development. Perhaps surprisingly Jacob in all its multitudious spellings which range from Iacobo, Coppo, Kobel, Kobelt, Kubera, and Kabos, to Giacopino, Jankel, Kobiela, Yakobovitz, and Jessen, was not originally a Jewish surname, but Christian. Like most biblical names, it enjoyed a great burst of popularity in the 12th century during the time of the famous Crusades to free the Holy Land from the Sarcens. All were unsuccessful, but the returning European soldiers and pilgrims made it a fashion to call their children by names associated with the early days of the Christian church. The earliest examples of surname recordings are usually to be found in England, the first country to adopt both hereditary surnames, and to register them. Here William Jacob was recorded in the Hundred Rolls of Cambridgeshire in 1273, whilst in 1292 Werner Kobi was a citizen of Freiburg, and in 1361 Hans Jacob is recorded in the charters of Wernsbach, both Germany. The first recorded spelling of the family name anywhere in the world is believed to be that of Agnes Jacobes, in the register of the abbey of Ramsey, Huntingdon, in the year 1244. Over the centuries surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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