This is an English topograhical surname of great antiquity. It originally denoted a person who lived on or by a Roman road built along the top of a ridge. Roads were often constructed in such places as they were both drier areas than in the valleys or dales, and they made for easier observation and therefore less opportunity for attack by bandits and other criminals who preyed on travellers. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century 'hrycg', meaning a ridge, with 'weg', a path or road. A great many of our modern surnames stem from such terms since the natural and man made geographical features that distinguished someone's home, made an obvious and useful identifying surname. The modern names Ridgeway and Ridgway can also be locational, from various places called Ridgeway in the counties of Kent, Surrey and Shopshire. Early examples of the surname recording include Nathaniel Ridgeway, his wife Ann and daughter Elizabeth, who were early emigrants to the English colonies of the West Indies. They are recorded in the parish register of Christchurch in the Barbadoes in 1678, whilst General Matthew Ridgeway was a famous American commander in the Second World War (!939 - 1945). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gilbert de Ruggeweie. This was dated 1183, in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Gloucestershire, during the reign of King Henry IInd of England, 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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