This surname of ROKEBY appears to be of two-fold origin. It was a locational name from Rookby in Westmorland, and Rokeby in the North Riding of Yorkshire. It was an occupational name meaning 'one who took care of the rooks' and lived where they were plentiful. 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. The earliest of the name on record appears to be ROSESBY (without surname) who was documented in the Domesday Book of 1086, and ROKESBY (without surname) is in record in Yorkshire in 1204. Surnames before the Norman Conquest of 1066 were rare in England having been brought by the Normans when William the Conqueror invaded the shores. The practice spread to Scotland and Ireland by the 12th century, and in Wales they appeared as late as the 16th century. Most surnames can be traced to one of four sources, locational, from the occupation of the original bearer, nicknames or simply font names based on the first name of the parent being given as the second name to their child. Since the dawn of civilisation the need to communicate has been a prime drive of all higher mankind. The more organised the social structure became, the more urgent the need to name places, objects and situations essential to the survival and existence of the social unit. From this common stem arose the requirements to identify families, tribes and individual members evolving into a pattern in evidence today. In the formation of this history, common usage of customs, trades, locations, patronymic and generic terms were often adopted as surnames. The demands of bureaucracy formally introduced by feudal lords in the 11th century, to define the boundaries and families within their fiefdoms, crystallized the need for personal identification and accountability, and surnames became in general use from this time onwards.
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