This German surname of BRINKMEIER was both a locational and occupational name meaning 'the dweller and worker at the bridge'. The first hereditary surnames on German soil are found in the second half of the 12th century, slightly later than in England and France. However, it was not until the 16th century that they became stabilized. The practice of adopting hereditary surnames began in the southern areas of Germany, and gradually spread northwards during the Middle Ages. Building and maintaining bridges was one of the three main feudal obligations, along with bearing arms and maintaining all the fortifications. The cost of building a bridge was often defrayed by charging a toll, the surname thus being acquired by the toll gatherer. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that 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. The name is also spelt Bridgeman, Bridman and Brickey. Early records of the name in England mention Johannes Brigeman, listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. John Bridgeman of County Gloucestershire, registered at Oxford University in 1582. James Bridgeman married Hannah Treader at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1796.
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