This name it is claimed was originally Greek and in particular the goddess of the moon. The name means 'the shining one', a meaning which no doubt contributed greatly to its popularity as a given name. However we have something of a problem with the name as a surname. It is claimed in the 'Pan Book of girls names' that 'Phoebe' was not recorded in Britain until the 16th century, and if this is correct, then the surname is as old as the christian name, an unlikely event. In our opinion there may be two origins for the name which is recorded as a surname in Britain in the spellings of Phebee, Phebey, Pheby, Feebey, Phoebe, and Febby. The name is recorded in Shakespears 'As you like it' dated 1590, and from this we deduce that it was introduced into Britain by returning pilgrims from the Holy Land, many of whom spent time in Greece. The second possibility is that the name is Viking, and relates to a now 'lost' medieval village probably in East Anglia, and called 'Felh-bi' or similar, and translating as the farm (bi) on uncultivated land (felh). Early examples taken from church registers include Thomas Phebey who married Susan Clark at St James church, Dukes Place, London, on May 19th 1680, Mary Phebe christened at St James Clerkenwell, on March 15th 1691, Elizabeth Phoebe, who married James Cott at St Mary-le-Bone, London, on May 6th 1770, and William Febby, christened at St Pancras Old Church, London, on May 21st 1790. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Phebee, which was dated September 25th 1619, married at St Giles Cripplegate, London, during the reign of King James 1st of England and V1 of Scotland, 1603 - 1625. 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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