This locational name is of Olde English pre 7th Century origins, and is more usually found in the dialectal spelling form "Norgrave". It derives from "nor" meaning literally northside, and "graf", a wood or thicket, and describes one who was resident at the wood on the north (side) of the village. In Worcestershire there is a place called Norgrove Court, and this may be the source of some nameholders. It has been suggested that a hamlet called North Grove once existed in Oxfordshire, but if so it is not recorded in the "lost" medieval village list, nor does it appear in any gazetteer.However, as there are an estimated five thousand "lost" hamlets, this omission is quite likely. Recordings of the surname include the following examples, which suggest that the spelling as Northgraves is 18th Century, and a Yorkshire development: John Nargraves, who married Grace Ogden at Bradford, on May 24th 1686, whilst on January 13th 1706, John(s) Norgraves was a witness at Pateley Bridge. The villages of Hedon and Humbleton, near Hull were early centres of the name, Ann Northgraves marrying Samuel Sudaby at Preston by Hedon, on April 28th 1761, and Joseph Northgraves was a witness at Marton in Holderness, on February 10th 1793. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas de Norgrave, which was dated 1311, in the "Rolls of the Abbey of Ramsey", Huntingdonshire, during the reign of King Edward 11, known as "Edward of Caernafon", 1307 - 1327. 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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