History of Surnames on the Daniel/Collier Homepage

History of Surnames

We may properly credit the Romans with originating our modern system of names, but we may equally blame the demise of this intelligent practice on the barbarians who swept across Western Europe between the third and fifth centuries A. D.  during the Dark Ages (following the Fall of Rome) most Europeans were known first only by their given name, and later occasionally by their given name prefixed by their place of birth. The advent of the eleventh century, however, saw the cultural, social, and economic conditions in Europe grow more complex. Populations increased dramatically; the rise of feudalism and the early stirring of mercantilism supplanted the simple communal life of the country village. All these developments forced people into ever-growing towns and cities. Communications, the handmaid of commerce, became more efficient. Under such conditions, the use of a single name caused increasing confusion, and soon, the hereditary surname (a last name, bequeathed to each generation of children in the same or similar form) found growing acceptance. Perhaps the most notable instance of this development was the introduction of feudalism into England with the Norman Invasion of 1066. Within the space of three generations, the French worked an almost total transformation of English culture. In particular, the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic language was merged with and in some cases was replaced by the native tongue of the new Norman rulers. In the course of time other modifications followed and hereditary surnames achieved a clearly defined order previously unknown. Beginning in the seventeenth century this system was transferred virtually intact to the American colonies.
The family name COLLIER is a good example of the evolutionary nature of this system. It derives from the occupation of coal mining, and as a term is still in use in Britain. "Coleman" was another name for the miner or seller of coal and has also survived as a modern surname. Prior to the "machine age" coal mining involved the labor of many men for a small output. It was tedious, dirty, and dangerous and probably attracted young men without other skills and few prospects of getting them. Where several generations of a family worked in coal, the secondary name "the Collier" would become readily associated with them. Many surnames, like the family name COLLIER, evolved directly or indirectly from the occupational titles. Those possessing a trade were well respected by their neighbors and consequently were usually identified by a personal name followed by their occupation. Alternately, other descriptive "tags" might be used to convey information about the person being named. Since few other forms of communication were available to the medieval British, "word of mouth" was an important source of information. Other surname types derived in a similar manner from place of residence, relationship, and nicknames. Occupational surnames comprise the third largest of the four classes of surname origin. The remaining three in order of size are: place names (Fields, Stones), relationships (Williamson, Williams), and nicknames (Short, Black). Because of the evolutionary nature of name development, it is virtually impossible to pinpoint the exact date of the formation of any new name. COLLIER, of course, is no exception. However, some of the ancient records of early forms of the name show usage as early as 1273.
The Dictionary of English Surnames gives us the following: COLIAR, COLIER, COLIERE, COLLIAR, COLLIER, COLLEER, COLLYER, COLYEAR, COLYER formed from "col" a derivative of coal, a maker or seller of charcoal in ancient times. COLYEAR was most common in Scotland where the family was a branch of the powerful and famous Robertson Clan. In Ireland, the first appearance of the name COLLIER is for Colliertown in County Meath 1305. The name also extended into Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford Counties. In France, COLLIER developed from the place name Caulieres. And the noble French family of COLYEAR de Portmore of Ecosse had a Scottish heritage. The German version KOHLER, KOLLAR and KOLLER developed from the place of Kohler. The earliest COLLIER in America appears to be WILLIAM, appearing on tax records in 1633. SARAH COLLIER married Love Brewster in 1634 in Plymouth MA. Love Brewster’s father, William, was the Captain of the Mayflower, which landed at Plymouth Rock, MA 1620. From 1620 until today, COLLIER remains an active surname. Colyer is less active with approximately 1000 hits in the 1990 census. COLLYER is even more rare.
The family name CLARK originated in England. The parish clerk, pronounced CLARK in England is where the surname originated. The clerk was licensed by the bishop, paid very little, but had a measure of security, holding the office as a freehold. Sometimes clerks renounced their benefices on condition that they be conferred on their sons. Perhaps the most important attribute of a clerk was his ability to read and write. The name was sometimes bestowed as a nickname for one who could read and write.
The name CLARK was found in Northumberland where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated at Belford Hall and Benton House, with manors and estates in that shire. Some of the first settlers of this name or some of its varients were: Edward Clark, who settled in Virginia in 1635; Joe Clark, who settled in Virginia in 1635; Anne Clark, who settled in Virginia in 1663; Henry Clark, who settled in the Barbados and others...
The name COTTON, which originated in England, had nothing to do with the soft, white, fluffy material, but designated the dweller in a small cottage, from Old English cot plus the diminutive ending -on, when not from a village name. The booth or circular hut is still built all over Europe by shepherds and others for temporary use. The name COTTON also seen as COTON, COTTEN, COTEN, COTTAN, KOTTON, KOTTEN and others was first found in Huntingdon where they had been seated from very ancient times, where they were Lords of the manor of Connington, some say before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Some of the first settlers of this name or some of its variants were: John and Sara Cotton who settled in Boston Mass. in 1633; Richard Cotton settled in Virginia in 1635; William Cotton settled in Jamaica in 1663; Henry Cotton settled in Renewes, Newfoundland, in 1675; and others.
DANIEL, DANIELS, and DANIELSON, from the Old Testement name of the Hebrew prophet, Daniel, are popular in Wales and England. Daniel also comes from France where the regard for the name was undoubtedly influenced by the French troubadour, Daniel, who flourished in the twelth century, called gran maestro d'amore "grand master of love." DANILEVICIUS is from Lithuania and DANIELEWICZ is the Polish form. The surname DANIEL can also be found in Scotland. Spelling variations include: DANIELS, DANIELL, DANEIL, DANYELL, DANEL, and DANIERS. First found in sussex where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated with manor and estates in that shire. Some of the first settlers of this name or some of its variants were: Mr. Daniel who settled in Virginia in 1606, fourteen years before the Mayflower another member of the family settled in Virginia in 1622.
The history of the GRAF surname include variations of GRAFE, GRAEF, GRAFF, GRAFFEN, GRAFFIN, and others. GRAF was an overseer in a household in Germany. In some cases having the connotation of a mayor of a village, a judge, or even a noble. GRAF can be found in France to refer to a count. The Graf name can be found in Switzerland where they emerged as a notable family name within the territory of Basel early in the Middle Ages. Some of the first settlers of this name or some of its variants were: Philip Leonhardt Graf, who, with his wife and five children, came to America in 1709. He was bearers of the name Graf to emigrate to the New World. Georg Graf arrived in Pennsylvania between 1743-1746, and Hans Peter Graf came to Philadelphia in 1750. Sebastian Graff came to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1719. Numerous Grafs also landed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1878.
Sources: American Surnames Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. published in 1969 by Elsdon C. Smith, and The Dictionary of English Surnames published in 1995 Oxford Press by P H Reaney.
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