The surname of GRASSI was derived from the Old French word 'gras' a nickname given to one with charm and grace. The name was brought into England from France, in the wake of the Norman Conquest of 1066. The name is also spelt GRAS, GRASSMAN, GRASER, GRASSIE, GRACIE, GRACE and GRASSETTI. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets in Britain were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way. Early records of the name mention Ascelin le Gras, 1273, County Norfolk. Roger Grassus, County Lincoln, ibid. William atte Grase, of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Robert Dowethe and Elizabeth Grace were married at St. Michael, Cornhill, London in the year 1548. Margery, daughter of Thomas Grace, was baptised at St. James', Clerkenwell, London in 1574. Thomas Grace and Mary Hotchkiss was married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in the year 1744. On the evening of May 13th in the year 1788 at 3.am. the First Fleet of convicts left Woolwich for Australia. Mostly they were petty criminals, forced to crime by a pitiful necessity. James Grace, an eleven year old, took ten yards of ribbon and some silk stockings, and he was one of the 1,500 aboard. He was transported for seven years. Whether he stayed or came back to England is not known. The bulk of European surnames in countries such as England and France were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. The process started earlier and continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, whereas by the 15th century they did.
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