This surname of NORFLEET was an English locational name meaning 'the dweller at the north stream or estuary'. There is a place in County Kent, from where the original bearer may have derived his name. The name was originally rendered in the Old English form NORDFELD, and the earliest of the name on record appears to be NORDFELD (without surname) who was listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086. NORTHFLETA (without surname) was recorded in County Kent in the year 1321. The name is also spelt NORTHFIELD, NORTHFLEET and NORTHFELD. Local names may derive from the manor held, the place of residence, and occasionally from a sign like an Inn or Tavern, or a particularly unusual shape of rock, hill, tree, stream or river. Other records mention NORTHFLETA (without surname) who was recorded in the year 1300 in County Oxford. Richard NORTHFELDE appears in 1300 in County Yorkshire. As early as the year 1100, it was quite common for English people to give French names to their children, and the earliest instances are found among the upper classes, both the clergy and the patrician families. The Norman-French names used were generally the names most commonly used by the Normans, who had introduced them into England during the Norman Invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.
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