This Dutch and Jewish surname of VAN GORDER was probably a habitation name from the Beloruss city of GRODNO. The name dates back to at least 1657. It was widespread among Jews in Poland by the end of the 17th century, when two naturalized Polish noblemen, Henry and George GORDON, obtained legislation to prevent its continued adoption by Jews. Various suggestions have been made as to its origin. It may be an anglicized form of the Russian word GORODIN (townsman). There is a family tradition among some that they are descended from a son of the Duke of GORDON who converted to Judaism in the 18th century; others claim descent from earlier Scottish converts. The name is also spelt GOURDON, GORDET, GORDIN, GORDONOFF and GORDONOWITZ. 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. 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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