The surname of COTE was a locational name from numerous similarly named places in Staffordshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset and Lincolnshire. It derived from the Old English 'Cote' meaning cottage or shelter and could also be a topographic name for someone who lived in a relatively humble dwelling. Local surnames, by far the largest group, derived from a place name where the man held land or from the place from which he had come, or where he actually lived. These local surnames were originally preceded by a preposition such as 'de', 'atte', 'by' or 'in'. The names may derive from a manor held, from working in a religious dwelling or from literally living by a wood or marsh or by a stream.
Following the Crusades in Europe a need was felt for a family name. This was recognized by those of noble blood, who realised the prestige and practical advantage it would add to their status.
Early records of the name mention a William de Cotes of the County of Lincolnshire who was documented in 1190. William Coates was documented during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). Roger atte Kote of the County of Yorkshire in 1296. Thomas del Cotes was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. A later instance of the name mentions William Turner and Susanna Coates were married in London in 1625. 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.
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