This surname of MacTAVISH is from the Gaelic Mac TAMHAIS, a form of Mac THAMHAIS meaning 'the son of Tammas' the Lowland Scots form of Thomas. The name was originally an Aramaic name meaning 'a twin' borne by one of the disciples of Christ, best known for his scepticism about Christ's resurrection (John 20:24-9). This disciple is stated by Eusebius, on no scriptural authority, to have borne the given name Judah. Before the Norman Conquest of 1066 the name is found only as the name of a priest or a man of the cloth. After this time it became one of the most popular christian names. The name is also spelt M'TAVEIS and McTHAVISH. The McTAVISHES are numerous in Argyllshire. The earliest of the name on record appears to be Doncan M'THAMAIS, who was one of those cited in 1355 to give evidence regarding the lands of Glassre in Argyllshire. Duncan McTAWISCH was a tenant in 1480, and Thomas McTAEVIS was a charter witness at Kenaach in 1514. Alexander M'TAUS in 1589 had custody of Ellanwirrich as constable in 1589. The MacTAVISHES of Stratherrick are considered a sept of the Frasers.
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It was not until the 10th century that modern hereditary surnames first developed, and the use of fixed names spread, first to France, and then England, then to Germany and all of Europe. In these parts of Europe, the individual man was becoming more important, commerce was increasing and the exact identification of each man was becoming a necessity. Even today however, the Church does not recognise surnames. Baptisms and marriages are performed through use of the Christian name alone. Thus hereditary names as we know them today developed gradually during the 11th to the 15th century in the various European countries.
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