This English topographic name was for someone who lived on the bank of a river or on a slop of the riverbank. The name was derived from the Old English word OFER. The name may also be a habitation name from places named with OVER, as in Cheshire and Derbyshire. Habitation names are derived from names denoting towns, villages, farmsteads or other named places, which include rivers, houses with signs on them, regions, or whole counties. The original bearer of the name who stayed in his area might be known by the name of his farm, or the locality in the parish; someone who moved to another town might be known by the name of his village; while someone who moved to another county could acquire the name of that county or the region from which he originated. 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.
The name first appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as UFRE, and is recorded in County Chester in 1150 as OVERAM. Richard de Overe was recorded in County Huntingdonshire in the year 1273, and John de Ouere of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. John Owers was documented in the year 1524 in County Suffolk. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name.
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