This surname of VENTHAM (and its variant FENTON) was a local name from any of various places in the West Country, Lincolnshire, Northumberland, Stafford and South Yorkshire. The name was originally composed of the elements FENN (marsh) and TUN (enclosure, settlement). The surnames derived from placenames are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church. Habitation names derive from pre-existing names denoting towns, villages and farmsteads. Other classes of local names include those derived from the names of rivers, individual houses with signs on them, regions and whole countries. Early records of the name mention Walter Adam de VENTON who was documented in the year 1199 in Yorkshire. Johannes de VENTON of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. 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. In the Middle Ages the Herald (old French herault) was an officer whose duty it was to proclaim war or peace, carry challenges to battle and messages between sovereigns; nowadays war or peace is still proclaimed by the heralds, but their chief duty as court functionaries is to superintend state ceremonies, such as coronations, installations, and to grant arms. Edward III (1327-1377) appointed two heraldic kings-at-arms for south and north, England in 1340. The English College of Heralds was incorporated by Richard III in 1483-84. A later instance mentions Perrett FENTON, who married Mary Ashley at St. Mary Aldermary, London in 1741.
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