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DERIVATION OF THE NAMES

                   

One of the earliest attempts to determine the derivation of the name CORSER appears in a work dealing with English surnames by an American author, C W Bardsley. This work, "English Surnames, Their Sources and Significations"1 has CORSER and  COSSER  as the occupational name for a dealer in horses, derived from the French Corsour. He also has CORVISER and COSIER  as other occupational names, both meaning a shoe maker.

In Samuel Bartlett Gerrish Corser's monumental work "Genealogy of the Corser Family in America"2 he puts forward a very deeply researched and scholarly derivation, starting with a Latin  root currere which gave the Latin cursor for runner, and the family name of  the Cursores. The Latin words were carried across into Italian and French. In Italian there was corsa for a course and corsiere for a courser or horse. In Old French there was corsier or coursier, meaning a steed, corsour meaning running, and Le Corsour was a name for a horse-dealer. The names CORSER and COURSER in Britain he attributes to the Middle English period (1100 - 1500), deriving from the French usage.

SBGC quotes from two old sources. One is Halliwell's "Dictionary of Archaic Words", which defines corsere as a horseman, a war-horse and a horse-dealer. The other is a German work, Matzner's "Dictionary of Old English", which defines corser, coreser or courser as coming from a Middle Latin cursor, with the sense of an agent or broker, meaning horse-trader or dealer.

Derivatives from the Latin curro, currere include: corsair - a swift pirate ship operating under official sanction; a pirate; course; courser - this word refers not only to swift horses ("...more rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name!"), but also to dogs that are trained for "coursing."; coursing - the sport of hunting with dogs that  use the sense of  sight, as opposed to the sense of scent, to catch their prey.

Subsequent works dealing only with the names in Britain follow the Middle English derivation. At about the same time as SBGC was writing, C W Bardsley, in his work "A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames With Special American Instances"3, linked the names COSSAR, CORSER and CORSAR with two possible derivations, the first meaning a horse dealer, and the second, linked with CORVISER, meaning shoemaker. (SBGC was rather dismissive of this derivation). There are certainly instances in the Shropshire Peace Rolls of 1400 of  men referred to as Corviser by occupation as well as by name, and there is a family in north Shropshire which appears in Parish Records in the l6th century as Corviser, becoming Corser by the 17th century. On the other hand, there is a family in south Shropshire which appears in 16th century Parish Records as Corser, and Corser  appears in 13th century documents. In East Staffordshire, where the spelling Cawser is common, there are instances of 18th century family members appearing as CORVISSOR in Parish Registers.

More modern works of reference dealing with British names show slightly different derivations. Henry Harrison, in "Surnames of the United  Kingdom"4, has CORSAR and CORSER meaning horse dealer, derived from Middle English Corser[e] or Courser, French Coursier  (a horse) and Latin Currere (to run). He also has COSSAR, COSSER and COSSOR as assimilated forms of Corsar and Corser. The work "A Dictionary of British Surnames"5 by P H Reaney, gives under CORSER the derivation from the Middle English occupation of horse dealer or jobber, with the earliest instance being in 1227. In the same work a separate entry under COSSER has a similar derivation, with one old meaning instanced as "horse-corser".

Another recent reference work, "A Dictionary of Surnames"6 by P Hanks and F Hodges, does not include an entry for CORSER, but under CHAUCER, an occupational name for a maker of leggings, the variant CAUSER is given as occurring in the West Midlands. In the IGI there are only 9 instances of Chaucer in the West Midlands area, in Shropshire and all dating from the 14th century. CAUSER appears in the 16th century in the IGI. The family of the author of the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, came  from Ipswich, in the East of England.

In a work on regional surnames, "The Distinctive Surnames of North Staffordshire"7,  CORSER again has horse dealer or jobber as its origin, with CAUSER and CAWSER as variants, quoting the 1227 earliest instance of CORSER, which occurred in the county. CORVISER is also mentioned in this work, with the meaning shoemaker, and earliest occurrence in Staffordshire of 1381. Another similar work, "The Surnames of Oxfordshire"8, includes CORVISER - shoemaker - and states that it was "moderately common in Oxford" in the 12th and 13th centuries, though little used anywhere else in the county.   

A very recent work by P Hanks, "The Dictionary of American Family Names"9 , has the same derivation for CORSER as Reaney, but for COURSER has the possibility of a derivation from the French COURSIER, meaning a messenger or runner, referred to above. The Corser family in the USA descended from John Corser of Boscawen has many instances of the COURSER spelling mixed with CORSER, especially in the branch living either side of the Canadian border. Hanks also raises the possibility of a derivation from the German KURZER, meaning a short man. For the spelling CAUSER Hanks refers to the West Midlands derivation from the maker of  leggings, French "Chausse", the same root as CHAUCER. In this work the name COWSER is said to derive from Old French "cousere", meaning tailor, as is COZIER, while COUSER is said to be of unexplained Scottish or northern Irish origin.

Finally, a work on Scottish surnames, "Surnames of Scotland"10, by G F Black, under CORSAR and CORSER also gives the derivation from the Middle English occupational name for a horse dealer with early variants CORSERE, COURSER,  and CORSEIR.

From the above it seems clear that the majority opinion is that the derivation of CORSER  comes from a connection with horses, horse dealing, riding and racing. The derivation from CORVESER does have some basis in examples found in England. The derivation of CAUSER from CHAUCER does not seem to have any basis, other than a possible link between a maker of leggings and a maker of shoes. There are many examples of  CORSER, CAUSER and CAWSER being used for the same family at different times, and  CAUSER and CAWSER may simply be spelling variations.

A web site dealing with the history of the deCOURSEY family11 has this Dutch family as CORSA living in New York in the 1750s.  The French version of the name - deCOURSEY - was also used, and this was anglicized because of  the French colonial wars of 1753-1763, into REESER or RACER. The site states that the French COURSIER, pronounced "Coursay", is translated to "RACER" in English and  "STAM" in Dutch (see Hanks above). This harks back to SBGC's derivations which opened this section. In "The Dictionary of American Family Names" the name CORSA is said to be Italian, the feminine form of CORSO, which itself is a shortening of Accorso meaning 'help', or Bonaccorso, meaning 'good help'. Gale Corson, of the Corson/Colson Family History Association (CCFHA) has contacted me to give his thoughts about this line of derivation. The text of a piece he wrote on CORSA for the CCFHA, together with his covering remarks, can be found on this page.

The Genealogy Forum for French-Speaking Switzerland web site (no longer functioning) had a section on the names COUSSA and KOUSSA. In this it stated that these names are derived from the town of Coussa in the sub-Region of Ariège, in the Region of Midi Pyrenées, France.

The name KAUSER appears amongst German immigrants to the USA from the mid-19th century. The name has also appeared in the UK in the last 25 years. The Surname Profiler13 web site includes this name, and gives its geographical origin as Pakistan and Iran.

Sources:

1.  Charles Wareing Bardsley MA, English Surnames, Their Sources and Significations,  First published 1873, David & Charles 1969        
2.  Samuel Bartlett Gerrish Corser, Genealogy of the Corser Family in America Embracing Many of the Descendants of the Early Settlers of the Name in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, with some Reminiscences of their Trans-Atlantic Cousins, Printed by I.C. Evans co., Concord, N.H., 1902. 
3.  Charles Wareing Bardsley MA, A Dictionary of English & Welsh Surnames, with Special American Instances, Henry Frowde, London, 1901
4.  Henry Harrison, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary, Vol 1, Baltimore Genealogical Publishing Company, 1969.
5.  P H Reaney, A Dictionary of British Surnames,  Routledge, Kegan Paul, London, 2nd edition with corrections and additions by R M Wilson MA, 1976.
6.  Patrick Hanks & Flavia Hodges, A Dictionary Of Surnames,  OUP, 1988 
7.  Edgar Tooth, The Distinctive Surnames of North Staffordshire, vol III, Churnet Valley Books, 2002
8.  Richard McKinley, The Surnames of Oxfordshire, Leopards Head Press, 1977
9.  Patrick Hanks, Dictionary of American Family Names, OUP, 2003
10. G F Black PhD, Surnames of Scotland,  NY Public Library, 1946.
11. Chronological Historical and Genealogical Research Notes on some of the Paternal Ancestors, Descendants and Collateral Lines of Frederick Perry DeCoursey (1900-1978), http://www.teachout.org/du/decoursey.html  
12. Genealogy Forum of French-speaking Switzerland, (no longer functional) 
13. Surname Profiler Project, http://gbnames.publicprofiler.org/

 

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CAUSER/CAUSIER/CAWSER/CORSAR/CORSAIR/CORSER ONE NAME STUDY   -  DERIVATION
 This page updated 2 January 2014