This interesting surname has two possible origins; firstly, it may be an occupational name for a dyer, deriving from the Middle English "litster", an agent derivative of "lit(t)e(n)", meaning to dye. The term was used principally in East Anglia and North and East England, and to this day the surname is found principally in these regions, especially in Yorkshire. Secondly, it may be of Scottish origin, deriving from an nglicized form of the Gaelic "mac an Fleisdeir" meaning son of the arrow-maker. The surname dates back to the late 13th Century (see below). Early recordings include Aleyn le Littester of Edinburgh who rendered homage in 1296, in the Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, and Richard le Lyster (1327) in the Subsidy Rolls of Derbyshire. Variations in the spelling of the surname include Lister, Litster, Lidster, Ledster, Lydster and Lester. Early church registers include the recordings of Lawnslet Lister, christened on the 24th September 1539 at Allhallows, Honey Lane, London, George Lidster, at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on June 26th 1611, Rowland Ledster, at St Giles Cripplegate, London, on June 24th 1641, and Lucy Lydster, who married Samuel Bawson at St Ann's Soho, Westminster, on March 2nd 1812. Thomas Lister was one of the earliest settlers in the New England colonies of America, sailing there from London on the ship "Paula" bound for Virginia in July 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ralph Litster, which was dated 1286, on the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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