This surname of SWITZER was an English nickname originally derived from the Old English word SWETE, meaning one who was pleasant and agreeable. The name was probably ironical in tone and given either to someone of condescending manner, or to someone who habitually used this form of address. The name was composed of the elements SWETE (sweet) and SIRE (lord, master). The name is also spelt SWEETSIR, SWEETSUR, SWEETZER, SWITSUR and SCHWEITZER. It has been suggested that the surname was no doubt originally foreign, but was very early in England. Richard SWETESIRE, was documented in Canterbury during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). Hereditary surnames were originally imported from France into England during the Norman Conquest of 1066. In the two centuries or so after the Conquest surnames were acquired by most families of major landholders, and many landed families of lesser importance. There appears to have been a constant trickle of migration into Britain between about the years 1200 and 150O, mostly from France and the Low Countries, with a small number of migrants from Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and the Iberian peninsular, and occasional individuals from further afield. During this period groups of aliens settled in this country as for example, the Germans who from the late 15th century onwards settled in Cumbria to work the metal mines. Immigration during this time had only a small effect on the body of surnames used in Britain. In many cases, the surnames of immigrants were thoroughly Anglicised. The late sixteenth century saw the arrival, mostly in London and the south-coast ports of large numbers of people fleeing from the war regions of France. The most notable of the name was Albert SCHWEITZER (1875-1965) the Alsatian medical missionary, theologian, musician and philosopher, born in Kayserberg in Alsace. In terms of intellectual achievement and practical morality he was probably the noblest figure of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel prize for peace in 1952. The eagle depicted in the crest is emblematical of fortitude and magnanimity of mind. The Romans used the figure of an eagle for their ensign, and their example has been often followed. It is the device of Russia, Austria, Germany and the United States of America.
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