This most interesting surname is of Old German origin, and is a diminutive (short form) of any of the various Germanic compound personal names containing the first element "rat", meaning counsel, advice; for example "Raddolf, Radwolf" ("rad", counsel and "wolf", wolf); "Ratmund" ("mund", protection)"; "Ratbert" ("berht", bright, famous); and "Ratbold" ("bold", brave, bold). In Germany the personal name "Radeke" appears in 1294, and "Radolf" in 1300, while "Radelif" first appears in records in Bremen in 1384, and "Radelaf" in 1406. The surname is also found in the modern idiom as Radtke, Radke, Radki and Ratke. Early examples of the surname include the christening of Barbara, daughter of Ambrosius and Gretta Radtki, on October 9th 1575, at Katzen, Ostpreussen; the christening of Asmus, son of Heinrich Ratke, which occurred on May 28th 1656 at Damshagen, Mecklenburg-Schwerin; the marriage of Asmus Ratke and Dorothea Brueggemann on April 19th 1681, also at Damshagen; and the marriage of Andreas Rathke and Dorothea Simons, which took place on October 26th 1707 at Sietow, Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Nicolas Radtki, which was dated May 31st 1575, a christening witness at Roggennausen Heilsberg, Ostpreussen, Germany, during the reign of Emperor Maximillian 11, "Holy Roman Emperor", 1564 - 1576. 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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