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Isbister Coat of Arms / Isbister Family Crest

Isbister Coat of Arms / Isbister Family Crest

This surname of ISBISTER is an Orcadian name of local origin. There is an ISBISTER in the parish of Rendall, another in Birsay, a third in South Ronaldsay, and two others in Northmavine and Whalsay in Shetland. The name also comes from a portion of the large township of Grimeston in Harray, once known as the town of ISBISTER. The first people in Scotland to acquire fixed surnames were the nobles and great landowners, who called themselves, or were called by others, after the lands they possessed. Surnames originating in this way are known as territorial. Formerly lords of baronies and regalities and farmers were inclined to magnify their importance and to sign letters and documents with the names of their baronies and farms instead of their Christian names and surnames. The abuse of this style of speech and writing was carried so far that an Act was passed in the Scots parliament in 1672 forbidding the practice and declaring that it was allowed only to noblemen and bishops to subscribe by their titles. Early records of the name mention Robert YSBUSTER, who was a witness in Harray in 1557, and he appears again in 1565 as Robert YSBISTER of that Ilk. Malkom EYSBUSTER was bailie of Harray in 1607, and Huchoun ISBISTER and Adam ISBISTER were witnesses in Kirkwell in the year 1610. Four persons name YSEBUSTER were members of the bailie court of Stennes in 1576, and Malcolm YISBUSTER was the bailie of Harray in 1605. It was not until the 10th century that modern hereditary surnames first developed, and the use of fixed names spread, first to France, and then England, then to Germany and all of Europe. In these parts of Europe, the individual man was becoming more important, commerce was increasing and the exact identification of each man was becoming a necessity. Even today however, the Church does not recognise surnames. Baptisms and marriages are performed through use of the Christian name alone. Thus hereditary names as we know them today developed gradually during the 11th to the 15th century in the various European countries. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.

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Last Updated: Dec. 1st, 2021

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