This curious surname belongs to that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These nicknames were originally given with reference to personal characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, and supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition. The derivation, in this instance, is from the Middle English "scheldrake", a brightly coloured male duck, and denoted a vain or showy man. The ultimate origin of the word is the East Anglian dialectal term "scheld", variegated, particoloured, from the Middle Low German "schelede", a derivative of "schelen", to differ, with "drake", male duck (apparently also of Low German origin).Early examples of the surname include: Adam le Sceldrake (Suffolk, 1275) and John Sheldrake (the Calendar of Charter Rolls, London, circa 1276). The name is now most widespread in East Anglia, and has four variant spellings: Sheldrake, Sheldrick, Shildrake, and Shildrick. On October 20th 1550, Rob Sheldrake and Jone Erle were married at St. Giles', Norwich, Norfolk. Timothy Sheldrake, an 18th Century doctor, was the author of "Botanicum Medicinale" (1759). A Coat of Arms granted to the Sheldrake family is a silver shield with a black fess between three sheldrakes proper, the Crest being a sheldrake as in the arms. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Scheldrac, which was dated 1195, in the "Pipe Rolls of Essex", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "Richard the Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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