This very unusual surname, recorded in English Church Registers from the late 17th Century under the variant spellings Zebedy and Zebidee, derives from the biblical male given name "Zebedee", itself coming from the Hebrew, and translating as "gift of the Lord". This name was borne by the father of James and John, two of Christ's apostles, and a quotation from Matthew 10:2 reads, "the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter; and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother...". Again Mark 1:20 tells us, "they (James and John) left their father Zebedee in the boat". It is believed that, like Ebenezer, Zebedee was adopted as a Christian name by 17th Century Puritans, and other nonconformists, who looked more and more to the Bible as the sole authority, rejecting all tradition in matters of public worship. The surname is particularly well recorded in South West England. On January 9th 1731, William Zebedee and Dorothy Lake were married at Kenton, Devonshire, and on January 13th 1779, Mary Zebedee married a John Barns at Cherington, Gloucestershire. The marriage of Ann Zebedee to Joseph Hale took place at Stert, Wiltshire, on October 10th 1811, and on July 9th 1846, Sarah, daughter of Jermiah Zebedee, was christened at St. Mary's, Marylebone Road, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Jane Zebedy, which was dated July 28th 1690, marriage to James Quillet, at St. Mary's, Marylebone Road, London, during the reign of William and Mary, 1689 - 1694. 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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