This Italian surname of RENZI was a baptismal name meaning 'the descendant of RENZI' a pet form of Lorenzo, the Italian form of Lawrence. The name was borne by a saint who was martyred at Rome in the 3rd century AD; he enjoyed considerable cult throughout Europe, with the consequent popularity of the given name. As the agricultural depression of southern Italy worsened towards the end of the 19th century, people began to escape to the New World. The exodus started in earnest in 1887 with Brazil and other parts of Latin America being the original destinations. By 1893, the economy had improved in the United States and people headed there from Italy in greater and greater numbers. In 1898 there were more Italian immigrants to the USA than from any other country. In the post war era, more than a quarter of Italians left the country for a new life. They joined a flood of immigrants to America which was averaging a million a year in the pre war years. The origins of Italian surnames are not clear, and much work remains to be done on medieval Italian records. It seems that fixed bynames, in some cases hereditary, were in use in the Venetian Republic by the end of the 10th century. The typical Italian surname endings are 'i' and 'o', the former being characteristic of northern Italy. The singular form 'o' is more typical of southern Italy. The name is also spelt RIENZI, RENZE, RENZ, RENTZ and RENTZE. Notable members of the name mention COLA DI RIENZO (1313-1354) who was the Italian patriot, born in Rome of humble parentage. In 1343 he was spokesman of a deputation sent in vain to Avignon to beseech Pope Clement VI to return to Rome. In May 1347 he incited the citizens to rise against the rule of the nobles. The senators were driven out, and RIENZO was invested with practically dictatorial power. At his request the Italian states sent deputies to Rome to devise measures for unification and common good, and RIENZO was crowned tribune. 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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