Recorded as Shafto and occasionally Shaftoe, this is a famous English locational surname. It originates from the village of Shafto in the county of Northumberland, and is world renowned for the famous song about Bobby Shafto, a 15th century land owner. The place name and hence the surname means either 'the place of the (boundary) marker' or perhaps 'the place of the pit shaft' from the Olde English pre 7th century word 'sceaft' meaning a marker or shaft, and 'ton', a village or area cleared for agriculture. The place is first recorded in the pipe rolls of the county in the year 1231 as Shaftho. Locational surnames were generally given to people after they left their original homes. The easiest way to identify a stranger in ancient times and even perhaps so today, being to call him or her, after the place from whence they came. However locational surnames could also refer to the local lord of the manor, and his descendants, and this seems to have been the case here. John de Shatho was recorded as being a land owner in Northumberland in the year 1273, whilst somewhat later Mark Shafto was the recorder of the city of Newcastle in 1618, and the second son of the famous Robert Shafto.
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