The surname of BALSER is a German and Jewish variant of the name Balthasar which was from the Babylonian personal names Balthazar and Belshazzar, which were originally distinct but by medieval times had come to be regarded as variants of a single name. Balthazar is from the Aramaic Balshatzar, meaning 'may Baal preserve his life'. Belshazzar was borne by the Chaldean king for whom Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall (Daniel. 5). The main reason for the popularity of the first name in medieval Italy and Germany was that, according to legend, it was the name of one of the three Magi from the East who attended Christ's birth. His supposed relics were venerated at first in Milan, but after 1164 in Cologne, where they had been taken by Rainald of Dassel. It was also a habitation name, an altered form of the name BELZER, meaning a native or inhabitant of a town called BELZ of which there are two: one in the Ukraine and the other in Galicia. When traditional Jews were forced to take family names by the local bureaucracy, it was an obligation imposed from outside traditional society, and people often took the names playfully and let their imaginations run wild by choosing names which corresponded to nothing real in their world. No one alive today can remember the times when Jews took or were given family names (for most Ashkenazim this was the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th) although many remember names being changed after emigration to other countries, such as the United States and Israel in recent years. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Rietstaps Armorial General. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe. 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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