The surname of BONFA is of French and Italian origin, the name was a baptismal name meaning 'the descendant of Bonefede' the good, faithful man. The earliest French hereditary surnames are found in the 12th century, at more or less the same time as they arose in England, but they are by no means common before the 13th century, and it was not until the 15th century that they stabilized to any great extent; before then a surname might be handed down for two or three generations, but then abandoned in favour of another. In the south, many French surnames have come in from Italy over the centuries, and in Northern France, Germanic influence can often be detected. After the Crusades in Europe, in the 11th 12th and 13th century people began, perhaps unconsciously, to feel the need of a family name, or at least a name in addition to the simple one that had been possessed from birth. The nobles and upper classes, especially those who went on the Crusades, observed the prestige and practical value of an added name, and were quick to take a surname. 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. Early records of the name mention William Bonenfaunt, who was documented in the year 1302, and Walter Bonenfant appears in Cambridge in 1273. Henry Bonefant was documented in County Buckinghamshire in the same year. Later instances include Philip Bonivant who was in the church register of St. Dionis Backchurch, London in 1631. Elizabeth, the daughter of Edmond Bollifante was baptised at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in 1637, and Frances, the daughter of William Bullivant was baptised at St. Thomas the Apostle, london in 1674.
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