There are two possible sources of this interesting medieval name of French origin, the first being that it is a nickname surname, given perhaps originally to a vehement supporter of King John (1199-1216), whose nickname was 'Lackland', as the derivation is from the Old French 'sans', without and 'terre', land. However, Santer may also derive from the Old French 'saintier' a bell founder, and would thus be an occupational name for a craftsman who not only made bells, but also cast buckles and other belt fittings. It is probable that both of the French names, of which Santer is an Anglicization, were introduced with the Normans after the Conquest of 1066. In 1260, one John Sancterre is recorded in the Assize Rolls of Cambridgeshire, and in 1573, at St. Ann's, Blackfriars, the christening of Ezechias Saneter took place. An early recording of the name in its present form is in Saltfleetby, St. Clement in Lincolnshire, with the christening of Francis Santer on October 20th 1594. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Edmund Sein(e)tier, which was dated 1160-1168, in the 'Early London Personal Names', during the reign of King Henry 11, known as 'The Builder of Churches', 1154-1189. 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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