The German surname of SHIFFLETT was of two-fold origin, both of which were occupational. It was a name given to a shepherd, one who tended the sheep, and the name appeared in the Old English form of SCEAPMANN. It was also the name used of a mariner, or occasionally perhaps for a boat-builder. This was originally rendered in the form SCIPMANN. The name in England is Shipman and other spellings of th name include SCHAAF, SCHAAP, SCHAEPMAN, and SCHIFFMANN. 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 name was referred to by a poem of Chaucers (1345?-1400).
'A shipman was ther woned fer by West
He knew wel alle the havens as they were
Fro' Gotland to the Cape de Finisterre'
Early records of the name mention William Schippeman, who was documented in County Lincolnshire in 1273 and Willelmus Schypmane of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Richard Shippeman appears in the same Tax. William Shipman of Bristol registered at Oxford University in the year 1602, and John Shipman married Mary Tillie at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1756.
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