The surname of LANCE is a very common name in Cumberland and the north of England. It was introduced into England by the Normans, among whom it was a popular name with the ruling classes, perhaps as a result of the association with the Old French LANCE, a name for an armourer or for a soldier who wielded the lance. 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. Early records of the name mention Ascelot Bryan, who was documented in 1273 in Cambridge, and William Lancelot was recorded in Lancashire in 1300. The acquisition of surnames in Europe during the past eight hundred years has been affected by many factors, including social class and social structure, naming practices in neighbouring cultures, and indigenous cultural tradition. On the whole, the richer and more powerful classes tended to acquire surnames earlier than the working classes and the poor, while surnames were quicker to catch on in urban areas than in more sparsely populated rural areas. These facts suggest that the origin of surnames is associated with the emergence of bureaucracies. As long as land tenure, military service, and fealty were matters of direct relationship between a lord and his vassals, the need did not arise for fixed distinguishing epithets to mark out one carl from another. Later instances of the name mention Lanslot Colynson, who registered at Oxford University in the year 1509, and William, son of Frysley Launcelot was baptised at St. Michael, Cornhill, London in 1568. John Lancelot of Neston, was recorded in the Wills at Chester in 1568.
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