This common English surname was brought to Ireland sporadically and to various places by settlers from England over the last six centuries, but as over eighty percent of the Porter families in Ireland are now in Ulster, it would appear that they are descended from settlers who came to that province from England and Scotland in the 17th century plantation immigration. PORTER was derived from the Old French word 'portier' an occupational name, a gate-keeper or watchman. It was an official name, and mentioned frequently is medieval records. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. Early records of the name mention Willelmus Portanus, 1183 Berkshire. Adam Porter, was documented in the year 1300 in the County of Somerset. Richard le Porter, of County Somerset, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Mr John Porter was buried at St. Antholin Church, London in the year 1674. A notable member of the name was Endymion PORTER (1587-1649) the English royalist, servant to James VI and I, and groom of the bedchamber to Charles I, and fought for him in the Civil War. He wrote verses and was painted by Van Dyck. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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