This is an early medieval English occupational name for a watchman, introduced into England by followers of William the Conqueror after the Norman Conquest of 1066, and derived from the Old Norman-French "waite", Old French "guait". The name applied specifically to a watchman in either a fortified place or a town. Job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. The singers and musicians of the Christmas "Waits" today carry on the tradition of the Waits of medieval England who combine the duties of watchman and musicians. "At the last he came to a Castel and there he herd the waytes upon the wallys", Malory, "le Morte Arthur", 1485. In the modern idiom, there are more than fifteen possible spellings of the name ranging from Waith, Waite, Wayt, Weight, and Waight to Whate. Thomas Waite (1615 - 1688), was a colonel in the parliamentary army in 1643 during the English Civil War and M.P. for Rutland from 1646 - 1653. He was also one of the judges of Charles 1, and signatory to his death warrant in 1649, and was imprisoned in 1660 at the Restoration of Charles 11. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger le Wayte, which was dated 1221, in "County Records of Suffolk (Ely)", 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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