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Re: Surnames more on
>Pertaining to the aforementioned thread....
>Some small issue with 1379 as the date for the use of surnames being common
>or "surnames being a necessity". It seems that until the common
>registration of written records with the Parish churches toward the end of
>the 1600's surnames were not widely as popular as family names and what we
>may have is among the rank and file a widespread use of names based on
>geography, trade or physical feature. This continued to 1700-1800 when
>because of writing more formal recognition became necessary.
Well, maybe. However, in our family database we have numerous lines
back to the middle 1500s, and at least two back to the 1300s or before,
all with only minor variations (such as Irvine vs. Irving) from current
surnames. The Quarterman name in our line we only have back to 1695,
but the Quatremaine name in England goes back to about 1160.
> Now as one
>further interesting note is that where names and wealth and title were an
>issue identification and certainty were an issue and I sense that the titles
>and use of names were regarded as important.
That seems to be the case.
Possibly there may also be some correlation with families that valued
education. Hard to say.
> Now a general quiry at what
>point of histor do we see Sinclair names in Orkney and Caithness and
>Midlothian becoming widespread in written use and parlance. My suspition is
>cira 1700 but I profess a great amount of ignorance on the topic.
>Now one relation shared with me that unless you had wealth and title or were
>arrested and or hung, there was little reason to record anyones name before
>1600 or so and it simply did not matter. Thoughts anyone?
The date no doubt varied from place to place and with wealth and title
as you say, but 1600 seems a bit late. I'm sure others on this list can
Here's a web page that claims that it was the Normans who started the
surname vogue because of the need to maintain feudal succession, and that
the most influential Norman in this respect was none other than William
the Conqueror, who used top-down feudalism to centralize control of his
Of course, as you allude, it would take centuries before non-noble
families would also adopt surnames.
This isn't too surprising a thesis, since we all know of numerous
Norman surnames, including Sinclair and Bruce. (And Quatremaine.)
Some surnames existed before William (Malcolm III was an Irvine;
Canmore was an epithet, not a surname), but their widespread use
by nobility was accelerated by William's conquest.
That web page also makes the interesting point that the Pope who gave
William permission to invade England owed a lot to the Norman Robert
Guiscard in Italy.
John S. Quarterman <email@example.com>
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