This French surname of LAVIS is of various origins. It was a locational name meaning 'the dweller in or near the town' from residence in the metropolis. It was also an occupational name for a washerman, derived from the Old French word LAVER (to wash) and rendered in ancient documents in the Latin form LAVARE. Finally it was a nickname for a rich man, from the Old Provencial word AVER (to have, possess). In south east France the word is used of a flock of sheep (the principal form of property in the area). 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 name has been brought into England where it is found chiefly in Devon and Cornwall. For the majority of the English speaking peoples, the main sources of names have been the traditions of the various Germanic tribes of Northern Europe, and the names introduced by the Church, perhaps Hebrew names of the Old Testament, or Greek and Roman names of the New Testament and saints. Many names were brought over to England by the invading Anglo-Saxons, a mixed collection of people from various Germanic tribes, speaking various dialects which were called Old English. 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. A notable member of the name was one Ernest LAVISSE (1842-1922). He was the French historian who was born in Nouvion-en-Thierache, Aisne in France. He taught history to the son of Napoleon III. and was the professor of history at the Sorbonne, where he completely changed teaching methods. He edited the 'Revue de Paris' in 1894. He wrote works on Prussian history, after visiting Germany, but is perhaps best known for his immense histories, which were published in 1893, 1903 and 1922.
The name is also spelt LAVISE LAVER, LAVERS, LAVI and LAVISSE.
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