SURNAMES as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. The German surname of GERSH is an occupational name for a keeper of deer or a nickname for someone who resembled a deer in some way. The name was originally derived from the Old German word HIRTZ. It was also a Jewish name, from the Yiddish male given name HIRSH (deer) which is common because of the association of the deer with the Hebrew given name NAFTALI, deriving from the blessing by Jacob of his sons (Genesis.49:21) in which Naftali is referred to as 'a hind let loose'. The name has numerous variant spellings which include HIRSCH, GIRSH, GIRSCH, GERSCH, GERSHMAN and GIRSHEVICH, to name but a few. Between 1880 and 1914, almost three million Jews left Eastern Europe, representing the most extensive migration in Jewish history since the expulsion of Jews from Spain at the end of the 15th century. Most of the emigrants fled from Russia, where pogroms had raged, and where the laws of Czar Alexander III had oppressed Jewish life. Most of the emigrants departed from Hamburg and went to the United States, but some emigrated to Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada and South Africa. While the vast majority of the immigrants to America came through Ellis Island from 1907 to 1914 thousands of East European Jews participated in a little known episode in American Jewish history. They migrated through the port of Galveston, Texas and then were routed to towns throughout the Midwest where lodging and jobs awaited them.
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