The surname of TERN is a north of England topographic name for someone who lived by a tarn, a small lake or pool. The name was originally derived from the Old Norman word TARNU, and was brought into England in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1066. Most of the place-names that yield surnames are usually of small communities, villages, hamlets, some so insignificant that they are now lost to the map. A place-name, it is reasonable to suppose, was a useful surname only when a man moved from his place of origin to elsewhere, and his new neighbours bestowed it, or he himself adopted it. Early records of the name mention Hugo del Tern, who was documented in 1332 in County Surrey. Edward de Tern of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Most of the European surnames were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name. William Tarne was documented in County Lancashire in 1453, and Symon Tarn was recorded in the Lancashire Wills in 1566. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. 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. At first the coat of arms were a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over his armour. The associated coat of arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
Arms registered in London, England.
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