This interesting and unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a variant of Bickerstaff, a locational name from Bickerstaffe, originally a hamlet in the parish of Ormskirk, Lancashire. The placename is recorded as "Bikerstad" in the 1190 Cockersand Chartulary, and as "Bikerstath" in the 1226 Inquest Rolls of the County Palatine of Lancashire. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "beocere", beekeeper (bees were important in medieval times as honey provided the only means of sweetening food,) plus 'staeth' which normally describes a landing-place, but here may mean an area where hives were kept, probably away from normal habitation. During the Middle Ages, when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. This in itself lead to surname spelling distortion, a process which was aided by strong local dialects and poor education. Amongst the early recordings is that of Henry Bekerstaff in the 1397 Calendar of Inquisitiones of Northamptonshire. The surname has many spellings ranging from Bickerstaff(e), Bickersteth and Biggerstaff, to the southern Vickerstaffe, Vicarstaff(e), and Vickerstaff, where a 'v' has been substituted, in the same way that 'Venn' is the southern spelling of 'Fen(n)'. Examples of the early church recordings include Elisabeth, daughter of William Vicarstaffe, who was christened at St. Olave's Church, Hart Street, London, on November 8th 1607, and Sarah, daughter of Edward and Abigall Vickerstaff, christened at Osmaston by Ashbourne, Derbyshire, on October 27th 1662. The Coat of Arms has a black field charged with a silver cross crosslet, and a crest of the sun surmounted by a unicorn. A very imposing and easily identified, blazon. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alan de Birkestad, which was dated 1246, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "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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