This German and Jewish surname of FISHBEIN was occasionally selected because of its associations with the Hebrew given name of YONA or JONAH, because Jonah in the book of the Bible that bears his name, was swallowed up by 'a Great Fish' and blessed by his father Jacob, with the words 'Let them grow into a multitude'. It was also an occupational name for a catcher or seller of fish or a nickname for someone bearing some supposed resemblance to a fish. The name can also be spelt FISH, FICHBACH (fish-stream), FISCHLIN, FISHSON and FISCHELOVITCH, to name but a few. 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. A notable person of the name includes Hamilton FISH (1808-93) the American politician, born in New York. As secretary of state under Grant (1869-77) he signed the Washington Treaty of 1871 and completed the settlement of the Alabama Question. 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. Because of the close relationship between the English and German languages, some Germans are able to transform their names to the English form just by dropping a single letter. Many Germans have re-spelt their names in America. After the start of the first World War, Germans in great numbers Anglicized their names in an effort to remove all doubt as to their patriotism. Afterwards some changed back, and then during World War II the problem became acute once more, and the changing started all over again, although not with as much intensity. Many immigrants from Germany settled in Pennsylvania.
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