This Italian, French and German name of DONADIO was from a medieval given name rendered in ancient documents in the Latin form 'Donatus' meaning 'to give'. The name was much favoured by early Christians, either because the birth of a child was seen as a gift from God or else because the child was in turn dedicated to God. The name was borne by various early saints, among them a 4th. century Italian bishop martyred in c.350 under Julian the Apostate, a 6th century hermit of Sisteron, and a 7th century bishop of Besancon, all of whom contributed to the popularity of the given name in the Middle Agens, which was not checked by the heresy of a 4th century Carthaginian bishop who also bore it. The name has numerous variant spellings which include DONNETT, DONNAY, DONATH, DONATO, DONATI, DONATIELLO, DONATINI and DONDADIO. As the agricultural depression of southern Italy worsened towards the end of the 19th century, people began to escape to the New World. The exodus started in earnest in 1887 with Brazil and other parts of Latin America being the original destinations. By 1893, the economy had improved in the United States and people headed there from Italy in greater and greater numbers. In 1898 there were more Italian immigrants to the USA than from any other country. In the post war era, more than a quarter of Italians left the country for a new life. They joined a flood of immigrants to America which was averaging a million a year in the pre war years. The origins of Italian surnames are not clear, and much work remains to be done on medieval Italian records. It seems that fixed bynames, in some cases hereditary, were in use in the Venetian Republic by the end of the 10th century. The typical Italian surname endings are 'i' and 'o', the former being characteristic of northern Italy. The singular form 'o' is more typical of southern Italy. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe.
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