The surname of ALEGRIA is an Italian nickname originally derived from the Italian word ALLEGRO, meaning someone who was quick, lively and cheerful. The name was rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form ALACRIS, which was also occasionally used as a given name in the Middle Ages. The name has numerous variant spellings which include ALLEGRI, ALLEGRE, ALEGRE, ALLEGRETTI, ALLEGRINI, ALLEGRUCCI, ALLEGRET, ALEGRET, ALLEGRONI, ALLEGRIA and ALLEGREZZA. The family name of the Italian painter Correggio (1494-1534) was ALLEGRI. Correggio was the name of his birthplace, a small town near Modena. The origins of Italian surnames are not clear, and much work remains to be done on medieval Italian records. It seems that fixed bynames, in some cases hereditary, were in use in the Venetian Republic by the end of the 10th century. Central Italian heraldry has been much influenced by the church. Families deriving their titles from popes have incorporated papal insignia in their arms, notably the papal tiara and the crossed keys. The heraldry is reflected by the history of the country which has been used as a battlefield for successive German, French, Spanish and Austrian invaders. Italian heraldry has however developed certain characteristics shown by the use of horse-head shaped shields which were put on the foreheads of horses at tournaments. Crests are rare but when they do appear are quite ostentatious. As the agricultural depression of southern Italy worsened towards the end of the 19th century, people began to escape to the New World. The exodus started in earnest in 1887 with Brazil and other parts of Latin America being the original destinations. By 1893, the economy had improved in the United States and people headed there from Italy in greater and greater numbers. In 1898 there were more Italian immigrants to the USA than from any other country. In the post war era, more than a quarter of Italians left the country for a new life. They joined a flood of immigrants to America which was averaging a million a year in the pre war years. The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour.
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