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Bishop Family History
This early and very interesting surname, popular throughout Europe, is of Ancient Greek, pre Christian, origins. It derives from the word "episkopos", translating as the overseer, from the elements "epi", meaning on or over, plus "skopein", to look. The early Christians adopted the word for the headman of their local communities, and from the 4th century a.d. it was applied to a religious leader. Derivatives of "episkopos" include for example "obispo", in Spanish, and "bischof" in German, and "yepiskop" in Russian.. However spelt, and there are over one hundred forms ranging from Bisp, Evesque and Vesque, to Vesco, Bischop, Yepiskopov, and Piscotti, the surname did not refer to a bishop as such...
Bishop (Variants: Bishopp, Bisshopp, Bisp)
A nickname from rare Middle English biscop, biscop, Old English personal name bisc(e)op ‘bishop’, derived from Greek episkopos word meaning ‘overseer’. Although describing someone with the appearance, bearing, or manners of a bishop, sometimes perhaps describing a young lad who had been elected boy bishop for the traditional Saint Nicholas’s Day festivities.
In Irish, the surname is adopted for Mac Giolla Easpaig or Gillespie.
Also in French évêque and Italian vescovo.
Early bearers of the surname include: Thurstan le Byssop, 1240 in Feet of Fines (Essex); Thomas le Byscop, 1297 in Earldom of Cornwall Accounts; Rich. Bishop, 1539 in IGI (Sutterton, Lincs); Henry Bishop, 1542 in IGI (Harrietsham, Kent); Richard Bishop, 1548 in IGI (Redgrave, Suffolk); Hugo Bishop, 1562 in IGI (Hartland, Devon); Alicia Bishop, 1565 in IGI (Coltishall, Norfolk); Sara Biship, 1682, William Bishop, 1686 in IGI (Redisham, Suffolk).
In 1891 census, the surname was frequent across England and Wales with 21,963 occurrences and a further 588 in Scotland. In 1881, the surname was widespread, especially in the south of England. Devon was recorded as a top county with the surname and was also a top surname in the district of Plymouth with 139 occurrences.
In 1881, the most common Bishop occupation in the UK was Agricultural Labourer. Agricultural Labourer, Labourer and Farmer were the top 3 reported jobs worked by the surname. A less common occupation for the Bishop family was Carpenter.
John Bishop, an English convict from Somerset, was transported aboard the "Argyle" on 5 March 1831, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia.
Katharine Bishop (1889 – 1975), an American medical physician, best known in her co-discovery of Vitamin E. She was a trained anatomist, researcher and educator.
Another noted, Sherman Chauncey Bishop (1887 – 1951) was an American herpetologist and arachnologist who gave the scientific name to the sprice-fir moss spider.
1881, 1891 Census
1881 Census in Devon
Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016
1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain
1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain
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