This interesting surname has two possible origins; firstly, it may be an occupational name for a dyer, deriving from the Middle English "litster", an agent derivative of "lit(t)e(n)", meaning to dye. The term was used principally in East Anglia and North and East England, and to this day the surname is found principally in these regions, especially in Yorkshire. Secondly, it may be of Scottish origin, deriving from an Anglicized form of the Gaelic "mac an Fleisdeir" meaning son of the arrow-maker. The surname dates back to the late 13th Century (see below). Early recordings include Aleyn le Littester of Edinburghshire who rendered homage in 1296, in the Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, and Richard le Lyster (1327) in the Subsidy Rolls of Derbyshire. Variations in the spelling of the surname include Lister, Lidster, Ledster, and Lester. London Church Records include the christenings of Lawnslet Lister on the 24th September 1539 at Allhallows, Honey Lane, and John Lister on the 21st November 1557 at St. Peter's, Cornhill. One Thomas Lister, an early emigrant sailed from London for the New World aboard the "Paula" bound for Virginia in July 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ralph Litster, which was dated 1286, on the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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