The surname of MORSE was derived from the Old English word 'moris' a nickname for one with a swarthy complexion and dark hair. Other spellings of the name include MORRISS, MORRISH, MORSS, MORSEY, MORICE, MAURICE and MEURIS to name but a few. Following the crusades in Europe in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, a need was felt for a family name to replace the one given at birth, or in addition to it. This was recognized by those of noble birth, and particularly by those who went on the Crusades, as it added prestige and practical advantage to their status. Early records of the name mention MAURICUS de Edlington de Creona who was recorded in the year 1176 in Leicestershire. Ricardus MORRICE of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Robert Wolf married Johannes MARRYS at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in 1515. Israll Garrett and Alice MORRICE were married in the same church in the year 1602. MORRIS was the name of an extensive and powerful family in colonial North America, who played a leading part in the emergence of the nation. They were descended from Richard MORRIS (died 1672), who had fought in Cromwell's army and then became a merchant in Barbados. His son Lewis (1671-1746) established the 'manor' of Morrisiana in New York State. His grandson Lewis (1726-98), 3rd owner of that manor, was a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Two other grandsons, Richard and Gouverneur, were also key figures in the Revolution. However, their half-brother Staats Morris (1728-1800) was a general in the British Army and governor of Quebec. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
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