The CARROLL families descend from the Gaelic O'Cearbhaill septs. Several of the septs were of great importance particularly those of Ely and Oriel. The heaviest distribution of the name has always been in Leinster where the sept who ruled Ely O'Carroll and the sept from Oriel must have a large descent. Some Carroll families, even some who have recently assumed the form O'Carroll, in fact descend from the Mac Cearbhaill sept from Ulster where, with its prefix, Mac Carroll has survived mainly in County Derry. 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 definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. There were, anciently several septs of the name and today their descendants are numerous; many thousands of Irish bear the name. 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. The name has numerous variant spellings which include CARVILL, McCARROLL, McKARROLL, O'CARVILL and O'CARWELL. The origin of badges and emblems, are traced to the earliest times, although, Heraldry, in fact, cannot be traced later than the 12th century, or at furthest the 11th century. At first armorial bearings were probably like surnames and assumed by each warrior at his free will and pleasure, his object being to distinguish himself from others. It has long been a matter of doubt when bearing Coats of Arms first became hereditary. It is known that in the reign of Henry V (1413-1422), a proclamation was issued, prohibiting the use of heraldic ensigns to all who could not show an original and valid right, except those 'who had borne arms at Agincourt'. The College of Arms (founded in 1483) is the Royal corporation of heralds who record proved pedigrees and grant armorial bearings.
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