This surname of VALE was a topographic name for someone who lived in a valley. The name was originally derived from the Old French VAL, and was brought into England and Ireland during the Norman Invasion of 1066. The name is now common in Ireland, where it has been Gaelicized as de Bhal. Habitation names were originally acquired by the original bearer of the name, who, having lived by, at or near a place, would then take that name as a form of identification for himself and his family. When people lived close to the soil as they did in the Middle Ages, they were acutely conscious of every local variation in landscape and countryside. Every field or plot of land was identified in normal conversation by a descriptive term. If a man lived on or near a hill or mountain, or by a river or stream, forests and trees, he might receive the word as a family name. Almost every town, city or village in early times, has served to name many families. The name has many variant spellings which include VAL, VAUX, LAVEAU, LAVEAUX, VALE, VALETTE and VALLONI, to name but a few. Early records of the name mention Wido de la Val, who was documented in the year 1190 in Northumberland. Robert del Val appears in 1221 in Warwickshire, and Walter ate Vale was recorded in 1327 in County Sussex. John Vale appears in 1382 in Cheshire, and Nicholas Vayle is mentioned in 1623 in Yorkshire. 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.
The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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