This unusual surname is an interesting example of that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These nicknames were given with reference to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, or to habits of dress and occupation. In this instance, Redhead may be either of medieval English or Scottish origin, deriving from the Middle English "red", (Olde English pre 7th Century "read"), red, with the Middle English "heved", a development of the Olde English "heafod", head, originally denoting someone with red or auburn hair. Occasionally, the surname may be topographical in origin from residence by the "red headland", with "red" referring to soil or rock colour, and "heved", used in the transferred sense of "headland, summit". Early examples of the surname include: John Redheved (Cambridgeshire, 1273) and Fargus Redhede, a Scottish merchant, who, in 1358, complained "that goods of great value were taken from the wreck of his ship at Cotum in Clyveland". Christopher Redhead, an early emigrant to America, was recorded on a Census of those resident in Virginia on February 16th 1623. A Coat of Arms granted to the Redhead family is a silver shield with three black martlets, and an azure chief, the Crest being an azure eagle's head. The Martlet indicates one who subsists on Wings of Virtue and Merit, having little land to rest on. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Adam Redhed, which was dated 1256, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Northumberland", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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