The Italian, Spanish and French surname of CORTEZ was derived from the Old French word 'curteis' meaning courteous, in feudal society one of courtly manners, a well educated man. It was a popular surname from the 13th century onwards throughout Europe in many forms which include CURTIS, CORTIS, CORTESO and CORTESE. The associated coat of arms are recorded in Rietstaps Armorial General. As the agricultural depression of southern Italy worsened towards the end of the 19th century, people began to escape to the New World. The exodus started in earnest in 1887 with Brazil and other parts of Latin America being the original destinations. By 1893, the economy had improved in the United States and people headed there from Italy in greater and greater numbers. In 1898 there were more Italian immigrants to the USA than from any other country. In the post war era, more than a quarter of Italians left the country for a new life. They joined a flood of immigrants to America which was averaging a million a year in the pre war years. The origins of Italian surnames are not clear, and much work remains to be done on medieval Italian records. It seems that fixed bynames, in some cases hereditary, were in use in the Venetian Republic by the end of the 10th century. The typical Italian surname endings are 'i' and 'o', the former being characteristic of northern Italy. The singular form 'o' is more typical of southern Italy. In the 8th century, Spain fell under the control of the Moors, and this influence, which lasted into the 12th century, has also left its mark on Hispanic surnames. A few names are based directly on Arabic personal names. The majority of Spanish occupational and nickname surnames, however, are based on ordinary Spanish derivatives. When the first immigrants from Europe went to America, the only names current in the new land were Indian names which did not appeal to Europeans vocally, and the Indian names did not influence the surnames or Christian names already possessed by the immigrants. Mostly the immigrant could not read or write and had little or no knowledge as to the proper spelling, and their names suffered at the hands of the government officials. The early town records are full of these misspelled names most of which gradually changed back to a more conventional spelling as education progressed.
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