The surname of GRIFFITH was a baptismal name 'the son of Griffin or Griffith' and while some Griffin families in Ireland may descend from settlers of that name who came over from Wales, a great majority will come from ancient Irish lineage, being descendants of septs named O'Griobtha. One of these had its sept centre at Ballygriffin in Glanarought Barony, County Kerry. Griffin families are still numerous in County Kerry and in the adjacent county of Limerick. The name is also spelt GRIFFITHS, GRITTOES, GITTUS, GRIPPON and GRIFFOEN. Early records of the name mention Tuder filius Griffini, during the time of Edward I (1272-1307). John Gryffyn was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. An eminent member of the name was Gerald Griffin (1803-1840) the Irish novelist, born in Limerick. He wrote for local journals and went to London in 1823 to make a career in literature. He failed as a dramatist, but was successful with a collection of short stories of southern Irish life like 'Holland Tide' (1826) and 'The Tales of the Munster Festivals'. In 1838, he burned his manuscripts and entered a monastery. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another. 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 draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. 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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