The surname of BLACKBURN was a locational name 'of Blackburn', a large and thriving town in County Lancashire, so called from the old English BLOEC (black) BURNA (steam), literally meaning the dweller by the black stream. The surname is mainly found in the North of England. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Surnames before the Norman Conquest of 1066 were rare in England having been brought by the Normans when William the Conqueror invaded the shores. The practice spread to Scotland and Ireland by the 12th century, and in Wales they appeared as late as the 16th century. Most surnames can be traced to one of four sources, locational, from the occupation of the original bearer, nicknames or simply font names based on the first name of the parent being given as the second name to their child. Early records of the name mention Henry de Blakeburn of the County of Lancashire in 1206. Willelmus de Blakburn was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Edward Blackburn of Leyland, County Lancashire, Wills at Chester (1545-1620). William Blackburne of Billington, County Lancashire, ibid. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets in Britain were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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