This surname, chiefly found in the northern English counties of Northumberland and Cumberland, and in Scotland, is ultimately believed to be a patronymic form of the male given name Richard, itself coming from the Old German "Ric(h)ard", a compound of the elements "ric", power, and "hard", hardy, brave, strong. The name is found occasionally in pre-Conquest Britain, but was popularized to a great extent by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066. "Ricard" (without surname) appears in the Domesday Book of 1086, and the subsequent popularity of the name gave rise to a variety of diminutive and pet-forms including the Northern English "Rich" or "Ritchie", whence the patronymic "Richison", corrupted to "Ritson". In his "Memoranda", Joseph Ritson records the genesis of the word thus: "Richardson, Richison, Richson, Ricson, Ritson". On December 10th 1510, Elizabeth, daughter of William Ritson, was christened in Crosthwaite, Cumberland, and on September 11th 1624, Matthew, son of Nicholas Ritson, was christened in Whitfield, Northumberland. A notable bearer of the name was Joseph Ritson (1752 - 1803), antiquary, who produced his "Bibliographia Poetica" in 1803. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Ritson, which was dated April 8th 1565, a christening witness, at Crosthwaite, Cumberland, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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