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Sylva Coat of Arms / Sylva Family Crest

This surname SYLVA was an English and German given name, originally derived from the Latin SILVESTER, a derivation of SILVA (meaning wood). The name was borne by three popes, including a contemporary of Constantine the Great. The name has travelled throughout Europe in many forms, which include FESTUS, SELVESTER, SYLVESTER, VESTRI, FESTERSON, VESTRIS and SELIVERSTOV, to name but a few. Porcius FESTUS (died 62AD) was the Roman procurator of Judaea, who succeeded Felix in 60AD. In 62 the apostle Paul defended himself before him (Acts XXV). The name as SILVER was brought into England at an early date where it was rendered in Old English form 'seolfre' and was a locational name meaning the dweller beside the silvery stream, as at Silver Beck in County Cumberland, or Silver in County Devon. Early records of the name mention Lucas Siluer who was documented in the year 1205 in London. Robert Silverhewer was recorded in County Yorkshire in the year 1212. Thomas atte Selure was documented in the year 1327 in County Surrey. The surname is not uncommon in the Mearns in Scotland, and is an old name in the parish of Fetteresso. John Syllar was tenant of the garden of the Hospital of Dundee in 1464, and James Silvir appears as a witness in 1497. William Siluer, was the rector of Durisdere in 1504, and another William Siluer was a cleric in Aberdeen in 1540. The name Silver on a tomb in the Calton cemetery, Edinburgh, probably suggested to Robert Louis Stevenson, the surname of his 'Long John Silver' in 'Treasure Island'. 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.

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Last Updated: April 12th, 2023

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