This surname of BALLAS was an occupational name for a maker of crossbows, or for a soldier armed with a crossbow, originally derived from the Old French word BALESTE and rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form BALLISTA, meaning military. During the Middle Ages, in Spain and Portugal the name came to be used as the title of a minister who slept in a room adjoining his master's, originally as a kind of bodyguard, and also of various other court officials involved in royal ceremonial. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. The name has travelled widely throughout Europe and the United States of America in many forms including Balla, Ballaster Ballista. The earliest of the name recorded in England was Simon Bellyster, who registered at County Oxford in the June 1539, and Ann, daughter of Thomas Balisster, was baptised at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in 1674. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. They were not in use in England or in Scotland before the Norman Conquest, and were first found in the Domesday Book. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour.
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