In times long past, when people were not so numerous and they all made their living from the land, surnames were not used or needed. Since people were few and scattered: and since seldom got far from home, there was a minimum of intermingling and so Robert, John or Martha was sufficient identification.
But, as time went by and certain people became more adept at certain tasks, specialists began to appear here and there who would exchange their specialty for the product or service of someone else. Thus, as populations slowly increased, these specialists tended to gather in central locations so as to be available to as many other people as possible and so villages began to develop. With this concentrating of population and people traveling from the countryside all around to trade in the village, contact with other families and strangers was greatly increased. So now Roberts, Johns and Martins from various families and areas bega to meet and mingle and there began to be a problem with identification. At least the rulers of some countries viewed it as a problem. After all, how could they be sure that everyone had paid their taxes unless everyone had a proper name? It was for this reason that rulers began to decree that every citizen have a permanently assigned proper name.
Different parts of the world solved this problem in different ways. In Scandinavian countries the usual way was to identify a man as the son of his father. Thus, a man named Oscar, whose father was Peter, would be known as Oscar, Peter’s son. In use this became Oscar Peterson. Eventually, this practice resulted in a whole lst of surnames such as Robertson, Johnson, Davidson, etc.
In other areas people were given surnames indicative of their place of birth; and in some areas it was the type of work they did. And in some places both of these were used. From birthplaces we got such names as North, Easton and DeGaulle. From occupations came Miller, Culler, Carpenter and many others.
In England surnames developed from both birthplaces and occupations but we probably have more occupational surnames from England than from anywhere else. One of the earliest industries in England was the production of wool and processing it into clothing. From this industry, quite naturally, came the names of Shearer and Weaver. A major step in the processing of wool is the cleaning. In those long ago times in England, the wool was cleaned in large vats of lye water and people were hired to tread and agitate the wool constantly. Obviously, these people originated the name of Walker. The wool was sometimes made into a fine, smooth felt by spreading it evenly and walking on it. This was called fullering and those who worked at it were Fullers. This was the origin of the Fuller surname. A type of clay that was sometimes embedded in the felt was known as fuller’s earth.
Early records in England show that early in the 16th century a family of Fullers lived in Redenhall parish in the county of Norfolk. Norfolk county is on the eastern shore of England, east and a little south of Nottingham and Sherwood forest. The parish records show that John Fuller died in 1559. His age at the time is not known but he was probably born around 1530. The absence of other information indicates that he was not a man of fame or power. He was probably a quiet, hard-working man who would have been amazed if he could have known of the bold and lasting marks his grandchildren were going to leave on the earth and in the life of mankind. John Fuller died in obscurity, as did his son, Robert. But the next generation, strong willed idealists, would eventually become some of the most famous people in history.
Excerpted from “WOOL TROMPERS” by J. L. Fuller (and more will be coming.)