This very uncommon name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname deriving either from the place in Derbyshire called Rowthorn, near Mansfield, or from some minor, unrecorded, or now "lost" place, believed to have been situated in Cambridgeshire. An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared since the 12th Century in England, due to such natural causes as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, and to the enclosure of lands for sheep pasture from the 15th Century on. The place in Derbyshire is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Rugetorn", and in the Book of Fees of the county of 1242 as "Ruethorn". The name is derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century "ruh", rough, uncultivated (ground), and "thorn", thorn-bush; thus, "rough ground covered with thorn-bushes". The minor place in Cambridgeshire would have been named with the same elements. The modern surname forms are Rowthorn(e) and Routhorn(e), and examples from Church Registers include: the marriage of Thomas Routhorn and Elizabeth Roslin, at Cotterstock in Northamptonshire, on June 25th 1690, and the christening of James, son of Christopher Routhorn, on October 12th 1733, at Renhold in Bedfordshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Rowthorne, which was dated October 8th 1587, marriage to Sarah Wadlay, at Willingham by St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, 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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