BEGLEIGH families still live in County Donegal, the ancient home of the O'Beaglaoich sept, and in County Kerry, where Begley's from Donegal went as mercenaries in the 15th century, and settled in County Limerick. The name meant 'the descendant of Beaglaoch' a personal name composed of the elements 'beag' small and 'loch' hero. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. Early records of the name mention Richard de Begley, listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definate nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. The names introduced into Ireland by the Normans during the Invasion of 1066 were of three kinds. There were names of Norse origin which their ancestors had carried into Normandy; names of Germanic origin which the Frankish conquerors had brought across the Rhine and which had ousted the old Celtic and Latin names from France, and Biblical names and names of Latin and Greek saints. These names they retained even after the customs and language of the natives of Northern France had been adopted by them. After the Norman Conquest not only Normans, but Frenchmen and Bretons from other parts of France settled in England, and quite a few found their way north into Scotland.
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 draped and flowing garment worn over the armour.
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