This French, Italian, Spanish, Portugese, Czech, Polish, Russian, German and English surname MISER was originally from the Middle English given name MICHAEL. This is ultimately from the Hebrew MICHA-EL 'Who is like God?', a name borne by various minor biblical characters as well as by an archangel, the protector of Israel (Dan. 10:13). In Christian tradition, MICHAEL was regarded as the warrior archangel, conqueror of Satan, and the given name was correspondingly popular throughout Europe, especially in knightly and military families. The name has numerous variants which include MIKHELSEON, MICHEL, MICHEAU, MIGUEL, MICHAL, CHONET, CHONILLON, MICHIELETTI, MICHALKE, MICHELK, MIKO, MICHALEC and CHELAZZI, to name but a few. It was not until the 10th century that modern hereditary surnames first developed, and the use of fixed names spread, first to France, and then England, then to Germany and all of Europe. In these parts of Europe, the individual man was becoming more important, commerce was increasing and the exact identification of each man was becoming a necessity. Even today however, the Church does not recognise surnames. Baptisms and marriages are performed through use of the Christian name alone. Thus hereditary names as we know them today developed gradually during the 11th to the 15th century in the various European countries. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.
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