Families with the name Lee, quite numerous and widespread in Ireland are of varied ancestral origin. Some may be descendants of settlers from England where this surname is a common one. The majority of Lee families in Ireland, however, are of native Irish descent from ancestors named O'Laoidigh or O'Laidhigh, Mac Laoidhigh and Mac an Leagha. 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. In England the name was derived from the Old English word Leah - the dweller at the meadow or pasture. Local names usually denote where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Early records of the name mention Henry de la Lee, County Cambridge, 1273. Johannes del Lee of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Baptised. Anne Lee, St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1565. Baptised. Henry, son of William Lea, at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1682. John Leah and Elizabeth Baker were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in the year 1799. The name is also spelt Lea. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
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