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Lawless Coat of Arms / Lawless Family Crest

Lawless Coat of Arms / Lawless Family Crest

The surname of LAWLESS was originally derived from the Middle English 'laweles' - uncontrolled by the law, unbridled, licentious. Surnames as we recognise them today are believed to have been introduced by the Normans after the Invasion of 1066. The first mention of such names appears in the Domesday Book and they were progressively adopted between the 11th and 15th centuries. It was the nobles and upper classes who first assumed a second name, setting them apart from the common people who continued to use only the single name given to them at birth. It was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that it became common practice to use a secondary name, originally a name reflecting the place of birth, a nickname, an occupational name or a baptismal name which had been passed on from a parent to the child, as an additional means of identification. Early records of the name mention Thomas Lagheles who was the Register of the Freemen of York in the year 1360. Thomas Lawless of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Richard Lawles was documented in the Testamenta Cantiana, in the year 1533. William Colley and Ann Lawless were married in St. Georges Chapel, Mayfair, 1746. The name was introduced into Ireland after the Anglo-Norman Invasion, and is now numerous in Dublin and Galway. In Irish the name is LAIGHLEIS. 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. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.


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Last Updated: Dec. 1st, 2021

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