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As many newly freed slaves took the last name of their former owners I have always wondered where my mother’s last name came from.

Last name: Fozard

This unusual name is of Old French origin, introduced into England by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066, and now found chiefly in Yorkshire. It is a topographical surname, derived from the Old French “fosse”, ditch, from the Latin “fossa”, a derivative of “fodire”, to dig, excavate, and denotes residence by or near a ditch, or in ome minor place named with the same element. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created in Europe, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. The surname has a number of variant forms, ranging from Fossard and Foz(z)ard, to Fosserd, Fossord and Forsard, and is recorded early in Scotland, where one Alexander Fossarde of Tynningham, tenant of the bishop of “Seint Andreu”, Edinburghshire, rendered homage to Edward 1 of England (1272 – 1307) in 1296. Recordings of the name from Yorkshire Church Records include: the marriage of Gertrude Fossard (as below) to Robert de Meynell in 1099, at South Otterington; the christening of Maria, daughter of Henry Fozzard, in Wragby, on August 31st 1645; and the marriage of Sarah Fozzard and John Fearnley on November 13th 1672, at Birstall. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Jordan Fossard, which was dated 1084, witness to the christening of his daughter, Gertrude, at South Otterington, Yorkshire, during the reign of King William 1, known as “William the Conqueror”, 1066 – 1087. 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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