History of Surnames

Every Surname has a meaning and a history stretching back at least five hundred years. Most Surnames of English origin were formed during the twelth to fifteenth centurys. Some are much older having developed from personal names. The variations in a name occured because most people were illiterate and the recorders of surnames were French or Norman monks unfamiliar with the old English and Gaelic language and unable to pronounce or spell some names. This has occured in more modern times. During the great exodus of Irish people to the new world in the 1850's many Irish names were anglicised by English clerks and many variations of a single name can be found. There are some names recorded in the Domesday Book which have come down to us unchanged in nine centuries. There are four categories into which surnames may be conveniently divided.

1. Patronymics, that is, surnames descending from the personal name of an ancestor.These names are predominant among surnames that originated in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

2. Occupational surnames, including surnames of office.

3. Locality surnames, descriptive of the locality in which an ancestor lived, or identifying the town, village or hamlet from which he had moved away. Included in locality surnames are names of shops, houses, inns and sign- names as places were not numbered in medieval England, or any where else for that matter. These are by far the most numerous surnames of English origin.

4. Surnames that developed from nicknames. Included in the nickname category are those aquired in pageants and nativity plays. ie Bishop, King, and Pope.


Arms have been with us for more than eight hundred years where they first appeared on the battle fields of Europe to distinguish one group from another. They were a means of identification for the warrior class. Gradually the Arms became hereditary and the custom of displaying armorial bearings came about long after they had disapeared from the battle field. Arms also came to be used by burghers, craft guilds, municipal governments and the church.

Scottish Arms: In Scottish Heraldry there is no such thing as a Clan or Family Coat of Arms. It belongs to one person at a time only - The Clan Chief. A Grant of Arms, showing a similar Shield will be granted to those with a recognisable relationship with the Chief of that name, maintaining the spirit of clanship.

The Clansman's Crest badge consists of the Chief's Crest inside a strap and buckle engraved with the Chiefs motto, and is for personal wear only indicating his Clan allegience. In early times the Chief or nobleman provided his followers in time of war with arms and shields or breastplates for their defence. The breastplates, with the Chief's Crest engraved on them were fastened to the wearer by a belt and buckle. This identified the wearer as a soldier of the Chief and also identified the ownership of the armour after the battle.

A coat of Arms is the property of it's bearer and can only be claimed with genealogical proof to the direct descendants. A name similar or the same as one that does have arms, does not belong to anyone else of the same name. Many Arms are not heredetary, while some Irish Arms are "Family Arms or those belonging to the Sept" . So anyone who is say a descendant of the O'Moore or Lalor sept of Laois, and can prove that their ancestors came from that part of Ireland can theoreticley display or use those Arms. Generaly use of anothers personal Arms is considered theft.

The Arms displayed on this page show only the shields, (many arms also include crests and badges) and are not neccesarily those belonging to the families noted here, they are only used as examples and for historical interest.

Anyone may assume new arms for him self or his family, unless it is not considered customary or is legal in his country.

The following surnames represented are those to be found in the Lalor, Landsberger and Beattie families. More to come as my research continues.

In reference to the names of Dutch origin, "Van" indicates a locality, from a place. Likewise Spanish names beginning with "de".


To Surname Origins and Family Crests



A Dictionary of Welsh and English Surnames. By Charles W. Bardsly. First published 1901.

Family Names In Australia and New Zealand. By Kenneth Allen.

A Little Book Of Irish Family Names. Ida Grehan. Penguin Books 1997

Encyclopeadia of American Names. Chester Andrew and Amanda Robb. Harper Collins 1995.

Goireland. internet web site.

Heraldry. Customs, Rules and Styles. By Carl-Alexander von Volborth.

Gathering of The Clans. internet site.


The Association of Amateur Heralds.

Heraldica Portuguesa.

Coats of Arms From Ireland and Around The World. Internet site by Eddie Geoghegan.

Heraldry on The Internet, Coats of Arms, Family Crests.

Jennifer Greft, internet Heraldy page.