This surname of EXELBY was a locational name. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Almost every city, town or village existing in the Middle Ages has served to name one or more families. Where a man lived was his means of identification. When a man left his birthplace or village where he had been known, and went elsewhere, people would likely refer to him by the name of his former residence or birthplace, or by the name of the land which he owned. There is a place EXLEY in the West Riding of Yorkshire, near Halifax, so called from an ancient British word ECCLESIA, a name meaning church, and there is a place called Exelby in the North Riding of Yorkshire, from where the original bearer may have derived his name. The surname is still commonest in West Yorkshire. The earliest of the name on record appears to be ASCHILEBI (without surname) who was listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086. Since the dawn of civilisation the need to communicate has been a prime drive of all higher mankind. The more organised the social structure became, the more urgent the need to name places, objects and situations essential to the survival and existence of the social unit. From this common stem arose the requirements to identify families, tribes and individual members evolving into a pattern in evidence today. In the formation of this history, common usage of customs, trades, locations, patronymic and generic terms were often adopted as surnames. The demands of bureaucracy formally introduced by feudal lords in the 11th century, to define the boundaries and families within their fiefdoms, crystallized the need for personal identification and accountability, and surnames became in general use from this time onwards. Other records of the name mention John de Eskelby of County Surrey, who was documented in the year 1327, and Richard Exilby was recorded in 1490 in Yorkshire. Thomas Eshleby appears in 1677 in County Yorkshire. The eagle depicted in the crest is emblematical of fortitude and magnanimity of mind. The Romans used the figure of an eagle for their ensign, and their example has been often followed. It is the device of Russia, Austria, Germany and the United States of America.
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