At the end of the last century all the LAVERY families in Ireland were living in Ulster, mostly in the east of the province in the counties of Down, Antrim and Armagh in roughly the same region as the homeland of the sept O'Labhradha, from which they descend. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. The most prominent family in Ireland, from which the Earl Belmore descends, claims descent from a settler named Lowry or Laurie who came to county Tyrone in the first half of the 17th century from Scotland, where he is said to have belonged to the Laurie family of Maxwelton. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. Three branches of the sept are sometimes distinguished at BaunLavery (from BAN - white) Roe-Lavery (RUA - red) and TrinLavery (TREAN - strong). 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. 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. A notable member of the name was Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) the Irish painter born in Belfast, the son of a publican. He studied in Glasgow, London and Paris. A portrait painter of the Glasgow school, his work enjoyed great popularity, especially his conversation pieces and painting of women. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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