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. This French surname of GINNIS was from a medieval given name (from the Latin GENESIUS) meaning well-born, legitimate, from the root GEN - to be born). It was the name of an early Christian martyr under Domitian, and later of a 7th century bishop of Lyons, both of whom helped the name to enjoy a modest popularity. The name is also spelt Gines, Genes and Genis. French, or rather Norman French, was the language of the aristocracy and the upper classes in England at the time fixed surnames were being developed, it is therefore not surprising that many of our well-known family names are derived from French words. Originally only Christian or personal names were used, and although a few came into being during the 10th century, surnames were not widely used until much later, when people began to realize the prestige of having a second name. America was colonized by peoples from all over the world in a very short period of time, and mostly, in the case of French immigrants they have stayed together in Louisiana. Of the early immigrants to America the French have fared the worst in respect of their names, chiefly because of the difficulties experienced by the Americans in pronouncing them correctly. Many have been translated into English names. The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour.
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