The surname of GREEFF is of two-fold origin. It was a baptismal name 'the son of Reeve'. This is a truly early Yorkshire surname. It also meant 'a governor of a province', and came to mean an overseer, manager or head-workman on a farm, a farm bailif. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. Following the crusades in Europe in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, a need was felt for a family name to replace the one given at birth, or in addition to it. This was recognized by those of noble birth, and particularly by those who went on the Crusades, as it added prestige and practical advantage to their status. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function of 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 draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. Early records of the name mention Faroain Greva who was documented in 1050 in County Yorkshire, Johan Greve appears in 1199 in Warwickshire. Alicia Grayfdoghter of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Cuthbert Greveson of Yorkshire, registered at Oxford University in the year 1516.
The name has many variant spellings which include Grayson, Gresson and Grason.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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