This uncommon name, found almost exclusively in Devonshire, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and may be either a peculiarly topographical surname, or a locational name from some minor, unrecorded, or "lost" place in the county called Sherland or Shirland. The component elements of the name are the Olde English pre 7th Century "scir", district, shire, often a much smaller area than that associated with the modern usage of "shire", and "land", land, estate, part of a village; hence, "land belonging to the shire". It is possible that the first element of the name derives from the Olde English "scir", bright, fair, but this element is used in most cases of streams, fords, and pools of water. Topographical surnames were often created from residence by or on a particular piece of land, while an estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared in Britain since the 14th Century, due to such natural causes as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, and to the effects of the various Enclosures Acts since the 15th Century. The modern surname can be found as Sherland, Sharland and Shirland, and examples from Devonshire Church Registers include: the christening of Philip Sharland on December 11th 1574, at Crediton, and the marriage of Agnes Sharland and Will Cade in Winkleigh, on September 20th 1577. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Sherland, which was dated April 10th 1539, witness to the christening of his son, Oliver, at Shirwell, Devonshire, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Bluff King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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.