Rrecorded in the spellings of Westray, Westrey and Westraw, this is an English residential surname, but from two quite separate origins. The first and most usual derivation is from the 11th century Norman-French 'westreis' and as such describes 'a foreigner from the west'. This is probably a reference to either to a Welshman or a Cornishman, as in the recording of Philip le Westreis, otherwise known as Philip Westrays, in the Pipe Rolls of the city of Warwick for the year 1230, or it may have been a colloquial reference within the army of William the Conqueror in 1066, to a Breton, a man from Brittany, the western part of France. The Bretons formed a major segment in the Norman army. To add to the confusion, there is a remote Cumberland village called 'Westray', and this village has most certainly produced nameholders, the first being Roger de Westra in the Cumberland charters of the year 1292. However this village and hence the surname is probably a development of the Old Norse 'west-ra', meaning 'the western boundary', since this region was for many years under Viking control. Other recordings include John Westrey of Colchester, Essex, in the court rolls of 1372, and Susan Westray, christened at St Antholins church, Budge Row, London, on March 19th 1555. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard le Westrais, which was dated 1206, in the Assize Rolls of the county of Lincoln, 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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