Recorded in the various spellings of Ovenden, Ovendon, Hovenden, and possibly Ovendale, this is an English locational surname. It originates from either the village of Ovenden in the former West Riding of Yorkshire, or from the village of Ovingdean in Sussex, or perhaps in the case of Ovendale from a now 'lost' medieval village of which only the surname remains (see below). Ovingdene was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Hovingdene" and therefore it is easy to see how variant spellings arose. The Yorkshire place name is recorded in the Fines Court register of 1246 as "Ovinden", and later in 1266 as "Ovendene". Ekwall's Dictionary of English Place Names gives the meaning for both places as "Ofa's valley", from the Olde English pre 7th Century personal name "Ofa", with "denu", a valley. The site of the Yorkshire village is very hilly, and more recent research suggests that the original meaning may have been 'upper valley' as in Ovendale from the pre 7th century 'ufer denu'. Ekwalls research was undertaken between 1920 and 1940, and in some cases has been overtaken by a a deeper understanding of place name origins. Locational surnames such as this one were generally given to people who left their original homes to live in another area. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ricardus de Ovendeyn. This was dated 1379, in the Poll Tax rolls of Yorshire during the reign of King Richard IInd of England, 1377 - 1399. Throughout the centuries surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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