This interesting and unusual surname, derives from the Old English name "Spearh(e)afoc", which means literally 'Sparrow-hawk', and as such was found as a personal name before the Norman Conquest of 1066. In its later development as a surname it had a variety of meanings. There is clear evidence that it was used as a descriptive nickname, as 'Sparhauk the Outlaw' appears in the Suffolk Rolls of 1327. Whether 'Sparhauk' in this case described someone bearing a physical resemblance to a sparrow-hawk, or the more likely explanation of a fierce and rapacious character, is unclear. The name could also be a metonymic occupational name for a 'hawker', that is to say somebody who bred and trained hawks, hawking being one of the major medieval sports, as well as a necessity for life. The personal name is recorded as 'Sparhaouc' in the 1086 Domesday Book, whilst recordings of the surname include Robert Sperhanec in the 1221 Assize Rolls of Warwickshire, whilst Thomas Sparhawk and William Sparhawk are both listed in the Subsidy Rolls of Suffolk in 1327. An early recording in the New World is that of James Sparrowhawk, a recorded in the 1680 Governors Register as a landholder in the parish of Christchurch in island of Barbadoes, during the reign of Charles 11 (1160 - 1685). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey Sparheuec, which was dated 1221, Assize Rolls or Warwickshire, during the reign of King Henry 111, "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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