Origin of Surnames and Family coat of arms

Coat of arms of Villejust (Essonne, France) dr...
Coat of arms of Villejust (Essonne, France) drawn by User:Spedona for the Blazon Project of French-speaking Wikipedia, with Inkscape. Source: Own work – Blazon: unspecified (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Until about the year 1100, most people in Europe had only one name. With population increasing it became difficult to distinguish among people, so surnames were added. These came from four primary sources: a man’s occupation, such as John Cook, or Miller; location, such as John Overhill or Brook; patronymical, such as John’s son (Johnson); and characteristics, such as John Small, Short, Longfellow, and so forth.
In addition to the need for identification, one occupation had to go a step further: the fighting men. In the Middle Ages combatants wore heavy suits of armor which made them unrecognizable. To prevent friend from fighting friend, each knight identified himself by painting a colorful design on his armor. In this manner was born the family coat of arms.

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