Recorded in several spellings including Read, Reade, Reed, Reede, Reeds, and Reide, this is an English surname of three possible origins. Firstly, it may be a nickname for a person with red hair or a ruddy complexion, deriving from the pre 7th century word "read" meaning red. Secondly, it may be a topographical name for someone who lived in a clearing in woodland, from the word ried, royd or ryd, and thirdly it may be locational from any of the places called Read or Reed. Read, a village in Lancashire derives its name from a fusing of "roege" meaning female roe deer and "heafod", a head land.Rede in Suffolk is so called from "hreod" meaning reeds as in a reed bed, and Reed in Hertfordshire derives from "ryht" meaning brushwood. The surname is very early and recordings include Hugo le Rede in the Curia Regis Rolls of Lancashire in 1220, and Hamo le Reed in the Subsidy Tax rolls of Sussex in 1296. Early church registers include recordings such as Barsabe Reede who was christened on May 2nd 1548 at St. Dionis Backchurch, and James Reed who was christened on June 16th 1605 at St. Dunstan's Stepney, both in the city of London. Mary Reed, aged 17 years, an Irish famine emigrant, sailed from Liverpool aboard the ship "Devonshire", bound for New York on April 10th 1846. A coat of arms granted to the family has the blazon of gules, a saltire between four mullets, or. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Leofwine Reade. This was dated 1016 - 1020, in the Olde English Bynames register for the county of Kent, during the reign of King Ethelred, known as "The Unready", 978 - 1016. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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