The surname of SERRANO was a Provencal and Italian topographic name for someone who lived or on near a ridge or chain of hills. The name was derived from the Old French word SERRE, and rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form SERRA (chain, range of hills). The name is also spelt SERRES, SARRE, SIERRA, SARRA and SERRETTA. The earliest French hereditary surnames are found in the 12th century, at more or less the same time as they arose in England, but they are by no means common before the 13th century, and it was not until the 15th century that they stabilized to any great extent; before then a surname might be handed down for two or three generations, but then abandoned in favour of another. In the south, many French surnames have come in from Italy over the centuries, and in Northern France, Germanic influence can often be detected. 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. A notable member of the name is Richard SERRA, born in 1939, the American sculptor. He studied art at Berkley and Yale, and from 1964 to 1966 he studied in Paris and Florence, before settling in New York. In the late 1960's he produced a series of films and began manufacturing austere minimalist works from sheet steel, iron and lead. Public commissions for such works have made him a controversial but highly influential artist.
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