The surname COLES was derived from the Old English word Col - a nickname for one with a swarthy complexion. Surnames having a derivation from nicknames form the broadest and most miscellaneous class of surnames, encompassing many different types of origin. The most typical classes refer adjectivally to the general physical aspect of the person concerned, or to his character. Many nicknames refer to a man's size or height, while others make reference to a favoured article of clothing or style of dress. Many surnames derived from the names of animals and birds. In the Middle Ages ideas were held about the characters of other living creatures, based on observation, and these associations were reflected and reinforced by large bodies of folk tales featuring animals behaving as humans. Early records of the name mention Cole (without surname) listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086. Colle Serviens was documented in 1100 in County Yorkshire, and Robert Coule appears in the year 1145 in the County of Kent. Johannes Cole of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Edward Cowl is mentioned in County Suffolk in the year 1568, and Bazill Beconn married Anne Coale at St. Michael's, Cornhill, London in 1588. 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 1884.
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