The surname of SAWYER was an occupational name 'the sawyer' one who buys and saws wood for re-sale. Occupational surnames refer directly to the particular trade or occupation followed by the first bearer of the name. These occupations can be divided into classes such as agricultural, manufacturing, retailing and so on. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today. Smiths, millers and wrights were indeed specialists, but even they would normally have their own smallholdings for growing crops and keeping a few animals. Others were simply designated as the servant of some person of a higher social status, as a maid or parson. Early records of the name mention Ralph le Sawiere, who was documented in the year 1273 in County Huntingdonshire and William Saweyer of County Somerset, was recorded during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). Hugo Sawer of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets in Britain were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way. Later instances of the name includes a certain Richard Sawyer and Jane Jessatt who were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in the year 1767 and Richard Meares and Frances Sawere were married at the same church at about the same time, although no date is given in this instance.
The name is also spelt Sawer.
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