The surname of BIGRAVE was of the locational group of surnames meaning 'one who came from Bygrave' in Hertfordshire. The name was derived from the Old English BIGRAFAN, literally meaning the dweller beside a ditch. The earliest of the name on record appears to be BIGRAFAN (without surname) who was recorded in Hertfordshire in the year 973. Most of the place-names that yield surnames are usually of small communities, villages, hamlets, some so insignificant that they are now lost to the map. A place-name, it is reasonable to suppose, was a useful surname only when a man moved from his place of origin to elsewhere, and his new neighbours bestowed it, or he himself adopted it. BIGRAVE (without surname) was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, and BIGGRAFAN (without surname) appears in the year 1197. Most of the European surnames were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name. Leommaer aet Biggrafan was documented in 1015, and William Bygrave was recorded in 1312. William Bigrave was documented in County Somerset, during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) and Edwin Bygreaves of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way. At first the coat of arms were 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 his armour.
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