The surname of MAINS was a surname borne by many fishermen families at Nairn and neighboring villages, is simply the Norse MAGNUS, and is probably a survival from the old Viking days in the Moray Firth. Some years ago there were thirty John Mains in the town of Nairn, and a tee-name had to be given each to distinguish them from one another. There are also many of the name in Aberdeenshire. In the southern counties the name is another spelling of Mayne. Early records of the name mention William Mane who was keeper of the guard of the king in 1477. James Main of Westerhouse was retoured in lands in 1699. The name has many variant spellings. 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. The use of fixed surnames or descriptive names appears to have commenced in France about the year 1000, and such names were introduced into Scotland through the Normans a little over one hundred years later, although the custom of using them was by no means common for many years afterwards. During the reign of Malcolm Ceannmor (1057-1093) the latter directed his chief subjects, after the custom of other nations, to adopt surnames from their territorial possessions, and there created 'The first erlis that euir was in Scotland'. 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.
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