The surname of WINDHAM was a locational name 'of Wyndham' the name of several places in England. The name was derived from the Old English word 'gewind'. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Early records of the name mention Walter Windeham, 1197 County Somerset. Robert Wyndeham of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. The small villages of Europe, or royal and noble households, even large religious dwellings and monastries, gave rise to many family names, which reflected the occupation or profession of the original bearer of the name. Following the Crusades in Europe in the 11th 12th and 13th centuries a need was felt for an additional name. This was recognized by those of gentle birth, who realised that it added prestige and practical advantage to their status. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. The name is also spelt Windham. Many factors contributed to the establishment of a surname system. For generations after the Norman Conquest of 1066 a very few dynasts and magnates passed on hereditary surnames, but the main of the population, with a wide choice of first-names out of Celtic, Old English, Norman and Latin, avoided ambiguity without the need for a second name. As society became more stabilized, there was property to leave in wills, the towns and villages grew and the labels that had served to distinguish a handful of folk in a friendly village were not adequate for a teeming slum where perhaps most of the householders were engaged in the same monotonous trade, so not even their occupations could distinguish them, and some first names were gaining a tiresome popularity, especially Thomas after 1170. The hereditary principle in surnames gained currency first in the South, and the poorer folk were slower to apply it. By the 14th century however, most of the population had acquired a second name.
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Last Updated: May 9, 2020
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