This surname of WARTHEN is of two-fold origin. It was an English habitation name from any of various minor places named with the Old Norman VAROA meaning a beacon. It was a name which would have been applied to a guard or watchman. It was also a German habitation name from places named with this word. The name is also spelt WARTH and WARTHE. Many English bearers of the name are descended from a certain Robert WARTH who was buried at Chatteris, Cambridge on the 2nd January, 1616. Others are descended from Bartholomaus WARTH (1630-1707) who was mayor of Unterkurkheim in Wurtemberg, some of whose descendants settled in England. It was not until the 10th century that modern hereditary surnames first developed, and the use of fixed names spread, first to France, and then England, then to Germany and all of Europe. In these parts of Europe, the individual man was becoming more important, commerce was increasing and the exact identification of each man was becoming a necessity. Even today however, the Church does not recognise surnames. Baptisms and marriages are performed through use of the Christian name alone. Thus hereditary names as we know them today developed gradually during the 11th to the 15th century in the various European countries. 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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