This French and Italian surname of ARGENTO was originally rendered in the Latin form ARGENTUM. This was probably most commonly a nickname for someone with silvery grey hair, but it may also have been originally an occupational name for a worker in the metal. It could also have meant one who lived near a silver mine. There are several French towns and villages named with this word, because silver was mined there. 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. The typical Italian surname endings are 'i' and 'o', the former being characteristic of northern Italy. The singular form 'o' is more typical of southern Italy. The name is also spelt ARGENTI and this is the name of a family of Italian origin, with branches in Greece, France and England, as well as Genoa, and elsewhere in Italy. Members of the family were leaders of the Greeks in their War of Independence against the Turks, and later in the 19th century, a branch settled in England. Early records in England mention Richard de Argentein, County Hereford, 1273. Giles de Argentein, 1281, County Norfolk. John Argentein, registered at Oxford University on the 20th October, 1449. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God, however much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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