The surname of CORNELIUS was a baptismal name meaning 'the son of Cornelius'. The name was originally an old Roman family name Cornelius which was borne by a 3rd century Christian Saint and Pope. The cathedral of St. Cornelius at Aachen was a centre of Pilgrimage and the given name was especially popular in this area in the Middle Ages. This is not an English surname, and no trace of the name can be found on English soil in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, the period when font names were being turned into permanent surnames. The name was probably brought from Holland in the late 14th century. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name.
Early records of the name mention John Cornelius (1557-94) a Jesuit, born at Bodmin, County Cornwall. Baptised, Jeames Corneye, son of Cornelius, a stranger at St. Michael, Cornhill, London in the year 1571. Peter Boney and Christine Cornelis were married at the same church in the year 1575. 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.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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