The use of fixed surnames or descriptive names appears to have commenced in France about the year 1000, and such names were introduced into Scotland through the Normans a little over one hundred years later, although the custom of using them was by no means common for many years afterwards. During the reign of Malcolm Ceannmor (1057-1093) the latter directed his chief subjects, after the custom of other nations, to adopt surnames from their territorial possessions, and there created 'The first erlis that euir was in Scotland'. RALSTON is a locational name from the barony of Ralston near Paisley, Renfrewshire. Early records mention Nicholas de RALSTOUN, who was recorded in Paisley in the year 1272 and Jacobus de RAULYSTON witnessed the election of an abbot of Paisley in 1346. John RALISTON of that Ilk was one of the arbiters in a dispute between the burgh of Renfrew and the abbot of Paisley in 1488 and Hugh de RALSTON of Ralston was killed in the battle of Pinkie in 1547. 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. A notable member of the name was William RALSTON, originally Shedden (1828-89) the English scholar and folklorist, born in London. He trained for the bar, but worked in the British Museum library (1853-75). He wrote on Russian folksongs and tales, besides a translation of Turgenev's 'Liza' (1869) and 'Kriloff and his Fables' (1869). 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. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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