This French, English, German and Dutch surname of GILLIS was from a medieval given name of which the original form was in Latin AEGIDUS (from the Greek AIGIDION, meaning kid, young goat). This was the name of a 7th century Provencal hermit, whose cult popularized the name in a variety of more or less mutilated forms; GIDI and GIDY in Southern France, GILLI in the area of the Alpes-Maritimes and GILLE elsewhere. The last form was brought over to England by the Normans, but in the 12th century it was confused with the Germanic names GISEL, a short form of Gilbert. The name has numerous variant spellings which include GYLES, JILES, JELLIS, GOWELL, GILLE, GIELE, JILY, EGYED, GILLET and GILLARD, to name but a few. Early records of the name in England mention Egidius Gowell of the County of Lincolnshire in 1273. Jordan filius Egidu, ibid. William Gilis of the County of Kent was recorded in 1317. Nicholas Giles and Christone Newell were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1564. Hereditary surnames were originally imported from France into England during the Norman Conquest of 1066. In the two centuries or so after the Conquest surnames were acquired by most families of major landholders, and many landed families of lesser importance. There appears to have been a constant trickle of migration into Britain between about the years 1200 and 150O, mostly from France and the Low Countries, with a small number of migrants from Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and the Iberian peninsular, and occasional individuals from further afield. During this period groups of aliens settled in this country as for example, the Germans who from the late 15th century onwards settled in Cumbria to work the metal mines. Immigration during this time had only a small effect on the body of surnames used in Britain. In many cases, the surnames of immigrants were thoroughly Anglicised. The late sixteenth century saw the arrival, mostly in London and the south-coast ports of large numbers of people fleeing from the war regions of France. 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.
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