This surname LAIR was originally derived from the Old French de Leyre, probably Lire, in the arrondissement of Evreux in Normandy. Other spellings of the name include LAIRD, LEAR, LEARE and LEYRE. The name was brought into England in the wake of the Norman Conquest of 1066. French, or rather Norman French, was the language of the aristocracy and the upper classes in England at the time fixed surnames were being developed, it is therefore not surprising that many of our well-known family names are derived from French words. Originally only Christian or personal names were used, and although a few came into being during the 10th century, surnames were not widely used until much later, when people began to realize the prestige of having a second name. Early records of the name mention William de Leyre of County Leicestershire, 1273. William de Leyre of London was documented in the year of 1307. Edward Leare of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Vincent Lear and Ann Carter were married at St. Thomas the Apostle, London in 1647. Mary, daughter of James Leer was baptised at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1722. The name was taken to Ireland by settlers where in Irish it is MAC GIOLLA UIDHIR - meaning weather beaten. This is a numerous County Tyrone sept. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames: they came into being fairly generally in the 11th Century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. The Irish prefixes of Mac (son of) and O (grandson or descendant of) gave rise at an early date, to a set of fixed hereditary names in which the literal patronymic meaning was lost or obscured. These surnames originally signified membership of a clan, but with the passage of time, the clan system became less distinct, and surnames came to identify membership of what is called a 'sept' of people all living in the same locality, all bearing the same surname, but not necessarily descended from a common ancestor. Adoption of the name by people who did not otherwise have a surname and by their dependants was not uncommon. Later, nicknames were in some cases to supersede the original clan names.
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