Not surprisingly this is a surname recorded in a wide range of spellings including Postlethwaite, Postlewayt, Postlewhit and Postlewhite. It is English and locational and originates from a place called Postlethwaite in the parish of Millom, in the county of Cumberland (now Cumbria). The first element of the place name is believed to be the Medieval nickname "Apostle", probably given to one who played the part of one of the twelve apostles in a local play or pagent, and the nothern English word "thwaite", meaning a clearing or more pragmatically a small farm, and hence Postle's farm".The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 15th Century, see below, and other early examples include Richard Postlethwaite in the burial register of Ulverston Church, Lancashire in 1546, and William Postlewait and Sebell Asburner who were married in the same church in the following year. Eminent namebearers include John Postlethwayt (1650 - 1713), M.A. Oxford, and High Master of St. Paul's school, London, 1697 - 1713, whilst Thomas Postlethwaite (1731 - 1798) became master of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1789. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Postilltwayte, which was dated 1467, in the "Guild Registers of the City of York", during the reign of King Edward 1V, known as "The Self Proclaimed King" 1461 - 1483. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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