There is a large group of surnames, more frequent in English, French, German and Italian names, which are actually a compound of nickname and location. They consist of an adjective indicating size or an attractive quality as a prefix attached to a given name. OVERFIELD is such a name literally meaning 'the dweller named FIELD who lived in the field above the river bank, hill or slope'. The field was a piece of land especially used for tillage or pasture and usually bounded by hedges. Local names usually denoted where a man held land, and indicated where he actually lived. The name is also spelt OVERFELD, OVERFELDS, FELDES, FIELDS and FELDON, to name but a few. Early records of the name mention Robert de FELD, who was recorded in the year 1185 in County Gloucestershire and Hugo atte FELD was recorded in 1188 in County Bedfordshire. James atte FELDE was documented in the year 1327 in the County of Surrey. John in the FIELD was recorded in County Somerset, during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) and Stephen atte FELD of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. 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. 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.
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