The surname of WEISSMANN is of German origin, a nickname given to a wise and prudent man. The associated Coat of Arms is recorded in Rietstaps Armorial General. Registered at Nuremberg. The name is also spelt WIESSE and WIESSMAN. A notable member of the name was Peter Ulrich Weiss (1916-1982) the German dramatist, painter, film-maker and novelist, born in Berlin. He was known initially as a graphic artist and novelist, and fled Nazi Germany and settled in Sweden in 1939. He became famous with his first play 'Marat/Sade' (1964). He wrote many plays and novels, and his last book 'Vanishing Point' was published in 1962. Family names are a fashion we have inherited from the times of the Crusades in Europe, when knights identified one another by adding their place of birth to their first or Christian names. With so many knights, this was a very practical step.In the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries the nobles and upper classes, particularly those descended from the knights of the Crusades, recognised the prestige an extra name afforded them, and added the surname to the simple name given to them at birth. At first the coat of arms was 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 the armour. The first hereditary surnames on German soil are found in the second half of the 12th century, slightly later than in England and France. However, it was not until the 16th century that they became stabilized. The practice of adopting hereditary surnames began in the southern areas of Germany, and gradually spread northwards during the Middle Ages. 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.
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