Recorded as Earnshaw and the London dialectal Hearnshaw, this is an Engflish surname. It is locational from a village called Earnshaw in the county of Lancashire. This name is composed of the Olde English personal name "Earn", meaning an eagle, and "halh", a nook, or perhaps "sceaga", a wood. In some cases, the name may be of topographical origin, denoting a dweller by the eagle-wood. Topographical names were among the earliest created, as both man-made and natural features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. At this time migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, and with the subsequent misspelling. Notable namebearers include Laurence Earnshaw who invented a machine for spinning and reeling cotton simultaneously in 1753. This he then destroyed under the impression that it would lessen the demand for labour; whilst Thomas Earnshaw (1749 - 1829), was the first to bring watches within the means of most individuals. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Erneschaghe. This was dated 1316, in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 11nd, 1307 - 1327. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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