This is one of the earliest names on the German Register, recordings dating back to the 14th Century, in various forms. A high proportion of Germanic names are personal descriptive nicknames, in this case the derivation is from the medieval "rat", translating as a counsellor or wise person. The popularity of the name is confirmed by the high level of recordings, a rare case in Germany where many have been lost in war and civil chaos. Variant forms of the name include: Rat, Rath, Rathe, Lerat, Rater, Rademann, Rathgen and Rathaus, the latter being one who lived by the Counsellor's house. This version has been Anglicized as Rathouse, giving (in England) completely the wrong impression.Examples of the name recording include: Jacob Rattan, of Munster, in 1341, and Conrad Raten, of Hildestein, Hanover, on August 23rd 1670. Other recordings include: Christin Ratjen, of Pronstorf, Schelswig-Holstein, on November 2nd 1680, and Claus Juergen Rathjen, and his wife, Lenke, witnesses at the christening of their daughter, Christine, at Reheritzoe, Schelswig-Holstein, on July 1st 1737. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gerhardus Ratthan, which was dated 1316, recorded in the "Rolls of the City of Worms", Germany, during the reign of Louis 1V, Holy Roman (German) Emperor, 1314 - 1347. 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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