The surname of GASAWAY was a locational name of German origin, one who lived on the avenue or in an alley. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. The name is also spelt GASSNER, GASSER, GESSNER, GAS, GASS and GASSMAN. 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. Almost every city, town or village existing in the Middle Ages has served to name one or more families. Where a man lived was his means of identification. When a man left his birthplace or village where he had been known, and went elsewhere, people would likely refer to him by the name of his former residence or birthplace, or by the name of the land which he owned. Since the dawn of civilisation the need to communicate has been a prime drive of all higher mankind. The more organised the social structure became, the more urgent the need to name places, objects and situations essential to the survival and existence of the social unit. From this common stem arose the requirements to identify families, tribes and individual members evolving into a pattern in evidence today. In the formation of this history, common usage of customs, trades, locations, patronymic and generic terms were often adopted as surnames. The demands of bureaucracy formally introduced by feudal lords in the 11th century, to define the boundaries and families within their fiefdoms, crystallized the need for personal identification and accountability and surnames became in general use from this time onwards. A notable member of the name was Herbert Spencer GASS (1888-1963) the American physiologist, born in Platteville, Wisconsin. He became professor at Washington University in 1916, and at Cornell in 1931. From 1935 he was the director of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. He shared the Nobel prize for physiology of medicine in 1944.
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