The medieval English surname Box is thought to have come from one of four sources. There were several locations that shared the name Box found around England in Gloucester, Hertford, and Wiltshire. In this context the name would be habitational. The name can also be geographical, being used in association to a person who lives near a box tree grove. The name is also thought to have been used to denote someone who was skilled in crafting items from the wood of the box tree. Box tree wood is incredibly hard and requires a skilled tradesman to work with it, in this context the name would be occupational. The last and less likely source would be the use of box as a nickname for someone who may have jaundice. Jaundice, which can result from a variety of medical conditions, which causes the skin to take on a yellow hue. Box wood was naturally a yellow color.
Surnames, as can be noted from the information above, often were adapted from wide variety of sources, from a person’s occupation or topographical landmark found near the individual’s home or birthplace, or possibly from the name of the village in which the person lived or was born. Surnames were sometimes patriarchal or matriarchal, created by combining the person’s given name plus the name of their father or mother. In some instances surnames were also created from defining physical traits; such as a person’s hair color, eye color, height, among other things.
While the use of surnames was a common practice in medieval France among the aristocracy, it was not until after the mid-sixteenth century that it became commonplace in the British Isles and across the remainder of Europe. The small size of the settlements and villages which existed during the earlier periods across most of Europe often meant there was no need for surnames as everyone within these communities knew each other and a given name would usually suffice. However, as communities grew and people began to migrate on a larger scale, the Norman aristocracy’s penchant for using surnames was found to serve several practical purposes; it allowed people the ability to distinguish themselves, one from another, and it gave the government a reliable way to track people for tax, census, and immigration purposes.
The task of record keeping was primarily under the jurisdiction of the Church, local priories, and the government. This was due in large part to the fact that literacy was a skill usually found only among the nobles, the clergy, and government officials and scribes. Even so, there often existed multiple variations of names which may be attributed to a number of factors; the origins of the surname, the lack of guidelines which existed for spelling, and the fact that many scribes who were charged with record keeping spelled phonetically, among other things. One of the earliest records of anyone bearing the surname or any variation of its spelling is that of William Box found in Gloucestershire tax rolls dated 1254. Some other early variations of the name include; March and Marche among others.
With the discovery of America and the addition to the British Commonwealth of countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, it was not long before people began to immigrate to these outlying areas. The use of surnames made tracking of immigrants easier. Some of the first recorded immigrants to America bearing the surname was Anthony Box who landed and settled in Virginia in 1621 and John Box who arrived in 1922 and settled in Virginia. Fredrick Box was one of the early settlers to Australia, landing and settling in Adelaide in 1848. Brothers, John and Daniel Box were early settlers to New Zealand, landing in Wellington in 1843 and Thomas and Sarah Box landed and settled in Auckland in 1875.
Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Box are found in Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United States, and Belgium. By state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Box live in Mississippi, Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
There are many notable people who bear the surname such as British born Godfrey Box. He was an entrepreneur who built England’s first iron-splitting mill.
British born Muriel Box was an Oscar-winning screenwriter and director. She has writing credits on over twenty films and director credits on fifteen.