The surname of VAN FOSSEN was an English, Dutch and French habitation name from some place named with the Old English word FOSS (ditch) and rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form FOSSA. The name was probably an importation from France. The name literally means the dweller at the Roman Foss Way, meaning a road with a ditch alongside it. Hereditary surnames were originally imported from France into England during the Norman Conquest of 1066. In the two centuries or so after the Conquest surnames were acquired by most families of major landholders, and many landed families of lesser importance. There appears to have been a constant trickle of migration into Britain between about the years 1200 and 150O, mostly from France and the Low Countries, with a small number of migrants from Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and the Iberian peninsular, and occasional individuals from further afield. During this period groups of aliens settled in this country as for example, the Germans who from the late 15th century onwards settled in Cumbria to work the metal mines. Immigration during this time had only a small effect on the body of surnames used in Britain. In many cases, the surnames of immigrants were thoroughly Anglicised. The late sixteenth century saw the arrival, mostly in London and the south-coast ports of large numbers of people fleeing from the war regions of France. The name is also spelt FOSS, VOSS, LAFOSSE, FOSSO and FOSSET. Dutchmen who have surnames from towns, cities or districts, are mostly distinguished by the prefix VAN. In the United States the use of capital and initial letters and spaces is optional with the particular family. The Dutch language is most closely related to Low German, and its surnames have been influenced both by German and French naming practices. The preposition 'van' is found especially with habitation names, and the 'de' mainly with nicknames. Compared to other countries, Dutch heraldry is notably simpler, some of the shields bearing only a single charge. Generally speaking one helmet, one shield and one crest has been used, quartering is uncommon and mottoes are rare.
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