During the Middle Ages surnames were first used in order to distinguish between numbers of people bearing the same christian name. As taxation, under William The Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066, became the law, documentation became essential, and names were chosen from a man's trade, his father's name, some personal physical characteristic, or from his place of residence. In the case of the name BRISCO it was a locational name meaning 'one who came from Briscoe' (birchwood) the name of places in Cumberland and Yorkshire. Surnames derived from placenames are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general descriptive references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church. Habitation names are derived from pre-existing names denoting towns, villages and farmsteads. Other classes of local names include those derived from the names of rivers, individual houses with signs on them, regions and whole countries. The name is also spelt BRISCOE. A notable member of the name includes Arthur John Trevor BRISCOE (1873-1943) the English etcher born in Birkenhead. He studied at the Slade School of Art and later in Paris. He served during World War I. On his return from Paris he purchased a boat and explored the French and British coasts and Dutch canals, from all of which he drew his inspiration. Almost his entire output of some 189 etchings are of seafaring subjects which were executed over a period of ten years. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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