This Italian surname of MARENGO is of two-fold origin. It was a locational name meaning 'one who came from MARENGO' in Italy; the dweller at the sign of the partridge. In the Middle Ages surnames were frequently taken from bird signs, although in many cases the meaning was as a dealer in such birds used for food. Although many of these animal and bird names sometimes came from shop or inn signs, some also have other derivations such as nicknames from a fancied resemblance to the creature depicted. The Battle of MARENGO on the 14th June 1800, was a battle fought 3 miles south east of Alessandria in Napoleons's Italian campaign. Napoleon was surprised by the Austrians with his forces divided and only the timely arrival of reinforcements made French victory possible. The name is also spelt MARENGY and MARANGO. The Church played a very important role in Central Italian heraldry and many Italian families who derived their titles from popes incorporated elements of the papal insignia, notably the papal tiara and the crossed keys, on their Coats of Arms. As in the rest of Europe, the turbulent history of Italy in the Middle Ages is reflected in its heraldry. Traces remain from the successive invasions of the Germans, French, Spanish and Austrians. Certain characteristics, such as the use of horse-shaped shields which were put on the foreheads of horses during tournaments, remain uniquely Italian. Social conditions in Southern Italy during the agricultural depression of the late 19th Century spurred the first wave of emigration as thousands of people escaped to the New World. Latin America was the original destination for these early settlers but as the economy strengthened in the United States, North America became more popular.
By the end of the 19th Century there were more Italian migrants in the USA than from any other country. In the Post-War era more than a quarter of Italy's population left the country to find a new life in America and Australia. While many Italian names have survived intact, many families chose to anglicise their surnames to fit in with their new country. The names of many more were altered on arrival in America by Ellis Island immigration officials who inadvertently changed names through misunderstanding or mis-spelling as they documented details of the new settlers.
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