During the Middle Ages surnames were first used in order to distinguish between numbers of people bearing the same christian name. As taxation, under William The Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066, became the law, documentation became essential, and names were chosen from a man's trade, his father's name, some personal physical characteristic, or from his place of residence. In the case of the name MAWSLEY it was a locational name from a place of the name in Northumberland. The name was originally rendered in the Old English form MALWESLEAH, literally meaning 'the dweller at the wood by a gravel ridge'. The earliest of the name on record appears to be MALESLE (without surname) who was documented in Northumberland in the year 1066, and MALEUSLE (without surname) was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. The name has many variant spellings which include Maudsley, Mawdesley and Maudslay. Surnames derived from placenames are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general descriptive references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church. Habitation names are derived from pre-existing names denoting towns, villages and farmsteads. Other classes of local names include those derived from the names of rivers, individual houses with signs on them, regions and whole countries. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe. Later records of the name mention Adam de MOUDESLEY, who was documented during the reign of Henry III (1216-1272). William MAWDSLEY of Mawdsley, was listed in the Wills at Chester in the year 1545. Thomas MAWDISLEY registered at Oxford University in the year 1605. The eagle depicted in the crest is emblematical of fortitude and magnanimity of mind. The Romans used the figure of an eagle for their ensign, and their example has been often followed. It is the device of Russia, Austria, Germany and the United States of America.
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