This apparently simple surname may not be so. It is of course English, and probably Olde English pre 7th century in origin from 'North-est'. It is probably locational, and if so describes a former inhabitant of a place called 'North east' or similar. Only one such place is recorded in the gazetteers, and that is 'Northease', a hamlet near Newhaven in Sussex. This is believed to have been so-called because it was to the north east of medieval Newhaven. If in fact the origin was topographical, it is best illustrated by such surnames as 'Townsend', describing one who lived literally at 'the town end' or 'Attenbrook', one who lived 'the brook'. However other points of the compass such as South West and North West, do not seem to have been honoured as surnames. What is also reasonably certain is that the surname does not derive from the counties of Northumberland and Durham, which have always been traditionally known as the 'North East'. All early recordings seem to be in the South, and examples of these taken from church registers include Walter Northeast, christened at Stourton, Wiltshire, on January 20th 1594, and William, the son of John and Mary Northeast, christened at Holborn, London, on October 14th 1669. Other recordings are those of Charles Northeast, christened at Chitterne on January 27th 1667, and Elizabeth Northeast, who married Loftis Highland at St Leonards, Shoreditch, on October 25th 1766. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Dorothie Northeast, which was dated May 18th 1590, who was christened at Baverstock, Wiltshire, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, known as 'good Queen Bess', 1558 - 1603. 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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