The surname of FREAK was of the locational group of surnames 'of Firth' a spot near Lilliesleaf, Roxburghshire in Scotland. There is also a parish called Firth in Orkney, from where the surname may have been derived. Local names usually denoted where the original bearer of the name may have held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. The name was from the Old English word FIRHPE,and literally meant the dweller at the woodland or scrub on the edge of a forest. Robert atte Verthe, recorded in County Sussex in the year 1296, appears to be the first of the name on record. Nicholas atte Ferthe was documented in Lancashire in 1297, and Edith Ythefrith appears in County Worcestershire in the year 1300. Robert atte Freakley was recorded in County Surrey in 1332, and John atte Fritz appears in the year 1327. Johannes del Frithe of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379 and Willelmus del Frithe was recorded at the same time. The bulk of European surnames in countries such as England and France were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. The process started earlier and continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, whereas by the 15th century they did. Later instances of the name mention Thomas Firth, 1606 in Roxburghshire, and Janet Firth was recorded in Scotland in 1630. Nycholl of Frytht was one of an inquest at Sabay in 1662, and John Firth appears as a charter witness in 1665. 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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