This interesting and unusual name, with variant spellings Wear, Were, Where etc. derives from two possible origins. Firstly, it may be topographical for a dweller by a dam, or keeper of a fishing-weir, from the Old English word "wer", weir, dam, fish-trap. It may also be topographic for someone who lived by the North English river "Wear", called "Vedra" in Ptolemy's "Geographina", a Celtic word meaning simply water. Finally the name is also found in Scotland where it is believed to be of Norman origin from various places in Calvados, Manche, Eure-et-Loire and Orne called "Vere", ultimately from the Old Norse element "Ver", dam. John de la Were was recorded in the Hundred Rolls of Oxford in 1273, as was Robert de la Were in Gloucestershire. The Subsidy rolls of Sussex record one John atte Wer in 1332. The Weirs of Blackwood, Lanarkshire, claim to be descendants of Ralph (see below). Thomas Weir (1600-1670) was a reputed sorcerer who was major in the army and a strict covenanter, reputed to possess a magic staff and was burned along with his sister for sorcery. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ralph or Radulphus de Ver, which was dated 1174, taken prisoner at Alnwick, Scotland with William the Lion, during the reign of King William the Lion, 1165 - 1214. 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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