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Genevai Coat of Arms / Genevai Family Crest

The French surname of GENEVAI was of two fold origin. It was a name given to 'one from Genoa' in Liguria. Genoa was one of the greatest seaports of the Mediterranean in medieval times, and merchants and master mariners from there were found in all the coastal and trading towns of Europe. The Genoese traded much with England both in silks and in spices. The name was also a nickname for someone who was born or baptised in January, or having some connection with that month. It got its names originally from the Latin Janus, who was the God of gateways and entrances. In some cases the name may reflect the Latin personal name of Januarius, which was borne by a number of early Christian saints, most famously a 3rd century bishop of Benevento who became the patron of Naples. The earliest French hereditary surnames are found in the 12th century, at more or less the same time as they arose in England, but they are by no means common before the 13th century, and it was not until the 15th century that they stabilized to any great extent; before then a surname might be handed down for two or three generations, but then abandoned in favour of another. In the south, many French surnames have come in from Italy over the centuries, and in Northern France, Germanic influence can often be detected. Early records of the name in England mention Benedict de Janua, who was recorded in 1185, and William de Janua appears in 1273 in County Kent. Later instances of the name include Jeremiah Jenowaye, who was baptised at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in 1670, and Sarah, daughter of Richard Jannaway was baptised at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in 1715. John Nibbs and Sarah Johnaway were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1787. 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.

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Last Updated: Dec. 1st, 2021

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