Recorded in several spellings including Prouse, Prewse, Prowse, Pruce, and Spruce, this is a surname of two possible origins. Firstly, it may be from the Old French and later English word "prous or prouz", meaning valiant or, doughty. Secondly, it could be an ethnic name for someone from Prussia, called in medieval England "Sprewse". Prussia was so called from the tribal name of the "Prusen", a Baltic tribe displaced by the Germans during the 13th Century. The surname was first recorded in England in the early 13th Century, and Adam Pruce appeared in the Assize Court Rolls of Somerset in 1225, while William le Prouz was mentioned in the Hundred Rolls of Devonshire in 1275. A later recording is that of Richard Spruce, christened at St. James Clerkenwell, in the city of London, on May 20th 1604. A notable name bearer, recorded in the "Dictionary of National Biography", was Richard Spruce (1817 - 1893), a botanist who began working upon mosses when a master at St. Peter's School, York. He discovered many new plants in the Amazon region. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Le Pruz, which was dated 1207, in the "Pipe Rolls of Hertfordshire", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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