This French and Italian surname was a derisive nickname for a peasant who gave himself airs and graces, or occupational name for someone in the service of a great lord, from the old French 'segneur' (lord). The name was rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form 'senior' (elder) and the Italian cognate came to be used also as a title of respect for professional men such as notaries. The name is also spelt SIEUR, SEIGNEURET, SIGNORELLI and DUSEIGNEUR. 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. A notable member of this name was Luca SIGNORELLI, (c.l44l-l523) Italian painter, born in Cortona. He worked, especially in frescoes, in Loreto, Rome, Florence, Siena, Cortona and Orvieto. Orvieto Cathedral contains his greatest works, the frescoes of 'The Preaching of Anti-Christ' and 'Last Judgment' (l499-l504) which display his great technical skill in the drawing of male nudes. He was one of the painters summoned by Pope Julius II in l508 to adorn the Vatican and dismissed to make way for Raphael.
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