The surname of GOAT is a variant of the name Gate, and was a locational name 'the dweller at the gate' from residence near the gate of a church. Habitation names, which are by far the largest group, usually denoted where the original bearer of the name held his land, and where he actually lived. These local surnames derive (with a few occasional exceptions) from English, Scottish or French places, and were originally preceded by a preposition such as 'atte' or 'bye'. The earliest local surnames of French origin are chiefly from Normandy, particularly from the departments of Calvados, Eure, Seine-Inferieure and La Manche, although some Frenchmen, arriving in England early acquired surnames from English places. Local names may derive from the manor held, the place of residence, and occasionally from a sign like an Inn or Tavern, or a particularly unusual shape of rock, hill, tree, stream or river. The name is also spelt GATE, GAIT, GAITT, GAITER, GAYTOR, GOATER, GOATMAN and GADE. Early records of the name mention John atte Gate, during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). Silvester atte Gates was rector of Brinton, County Norfolk in 1354. Johannes atte Gate was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. 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. A notable member of the name was Horatio Gates (1728-1806) the English born American revolutionary soldier, born in Maldon, Essex. He entered the English army, served in America, and on the peace of 1763, he purchased an estate in Virginia. In the War of Independence he sided with his adoptive country, and in 1775 was made adjutant-general, and in 1776 commander of the army which had just retreated from Canada. In August 1777 he took command of the northern department, and compelled the surrender of the British army at Saratoga in October. This success gained him a great reputation. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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