This Low German and Dutch surname of GESCHKE was originally a Norman personal name GISLEBERT. This given name enjoyed considerable popularity in England in the Middle Ages, partly as a result of the fame of St. Gilbert of Sempringham (1085-1189) the founder of the only native monastic order. This at one time had over twenty houses, but became extinct on the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was also a Low German and Dutch topographic name for someone who lived in an area of barren sandy soil. The name was originally derived from the German word GEST. Variant spellings of the name include GEEST, VERGEEST, BERGEEST, BORGEEST, Van der GEEST, GEESTMAN and GEESTRA. Surnames derived from placenames are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general descriptive references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church. Habitation names are derived 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. The Dutch language is most closely related to Low German, and its surnames have been influenced both by German and French naming practices. The preposition 'van' is found especially with habitation names, and the 'de' mainly with nicknames. Hereditary surnames were originally imported from France into England during the Norman Conquest of 1066. In the two centuries or so after the Conquest surnames were acquired by most families of major landholders, and many landed families of lesser importance. There appears to have been a constant trickle of migration into Britain between about the years 1200 and 150O, mostly from France and the Low Countries, with a small number of migrants from Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and the Iberian peninsular, and occasional individuals from further afield. During this period groups of aliens settled in this country as for example, the Germans who from the late 15th century onwards settled in Cumbria to work the metal mines.
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