This unusual surname is of medieval Scottish origin, and is either a topographical name from residence by the river Westwater in Forfarshire, or Westwater, an affluent of the river Lyne in Peebleshire. Alternatively, the name may be locational from a place called Westwater in the west of Fife, which has now disappeared, or from Westwater in Dumfriesshire near the Cumbrian border. The derivation, in all cases, is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "west", cognate with the Old Norse "vestr", west, plus the Olde English "waeter", water. Topographical features, whether natural or man-made, provided obvious and convenient means of identification in the small communities of the Middle Ages, and consequently gave rise to several surnames. The first recorded namebearer (below) also appears as John Vestualter, friar and notary of the monastery of Culross in 1569, and again as John Vostuatter, clerk of the diocese of St. Andrew in 1577. One Andrew Westwater was recorded in the Registers of the Parish of Dunfermline in 1584, and in 1617, William Westwater of Erniesyde was noted in Records of Glendovan Parish. Alexander Macdonald Westwater, Church of Scotland missionary in Manchuria, died in 1934. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Westwalter, friar of Culross, which was dated 1565, in the "Calendar of the Laing Charters", Scotland, during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots, 1542 - 1567. 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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