This venerable name may have derived from two distinct possible origins. First it may have originated as an English nickname for a strict or uncompromising person, from the Olde English pre 7th Century word "styrne", strict, austere (Middle English "stern(e)"). Stearnes is a patronymic form of Stern or Stearn. Alternatively, the name may be German or Ashkenazic, from the Germanic element "stern", star, given to someone with a streak of white hair or one who lived at a house distinguished by the sign of the star. William Sterne and Aubri Steryn appear in the Hundred Rolls of Cambridgeshire in 1273. John Stearne (1624 - 1669) was a founder of the Irish College of Physicians and was Professor of Law and Medicine in Dublin University. Laurence Sterne (1713 - 1768), great grandson of Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York, was a famous humorist and sentimentalist. Betty, daughter of Samuel and Eleanor Stearnes was christened in March, 1768, at the Church of St. Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry Sterne which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Cambridgeshire", during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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