This most interesting and unusual surname, recorded in the spellings of Postan, Postance, Poston, Postin, and several others is of topographical or occupational origin. However spelt the surname describes a dweller by a Postern gate, or more likely the keeper of the gate. It derives from the Old French word "posterle", and originally described a rear entrance, but in later times was taken to mean the small gate at the side of a portcullis which admitted one person at a time. The word was introduced into the English langauge after the Norman Conquest of 1066, and the surname followed shortly after, probably as a result of the thousand fortresses that the Normans built to keep their unruly country under control. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Job descriptive surnames, however, originally denoted the actual occupation of the bearer and later became hereditary. Early examples of the surname recordings include John de la Posterne in the charter known as 'Liber Feodorum' of the county of Wiltshire in 1242, whilst one John Postans, also known as 'Little John', but not 'The' little John, is recorded in 1575. Other recordings taken from church registers include Cicile Poston,christened at Rotherham, Yorkshire, on September 21st 1547, Elizabeth Posten, christened at St Andrews Holborn, on March 8th 1779, and Charles Postin, a witness at St Mary Whitechapel, London, on March 23rd 1836. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Mabill de la Posterne, which was dated 1203, in the "Pipe Rolls of the county of Essex", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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