This surname JENNIS was a baptismal name 'the son of Jennifer' an ancient and still a favourite personal font name. The name was brought into England in the wake of the Anglo-Norman Invasion of 1066, and the earliest of the name on record appears to be GENE (without surname) who was recorded in 1175 in London. Other records of the name mention William Gene, documented in 1275 in County Suffolk. Thomas Gennes was recorded in the year of 1327, in County Surrey. Mary Jeens of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Originally the coat of arms identified the wearer, either in battle or in tournaments. Completely covered in body and facial armour the knight could be spotted and known by the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped garment which enveloped him. This name has enjoyed enormous popularity in Europe, being given in honour of St. John, the Baptist, precurser of Christ and of St. John the Evangelist, author of the fourth gospel, as well as others of the nearly one thousand saints of the name. Some of the principal forms of the name in other European languages are Evan, Ioan, Sean, Johann, Hans, Jan, Jean, Giovanni, Giannai, Vanni, Juan and Ivan. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Between the 11th and 15th centuries it became customary for surnames to be assumed in Europe, but were not commonplace in England or Scotland before the Norman Conquest of 1066. They are to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086. Those of gentler blood assumed surnames at this time, but it was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that second names became general practice for all people. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. 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.
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