The surname of WELCHER was derived from the Gaelic Breatnach - the name for a foreigner - a Welshman, many of whom settled in Ireland, and it is now the fourth most numerous name in all Ireland as a result of this invasion. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. The first on record in Ireland is Haylen Brenach, alias Walsh, one of the invaders of 1172. Early records also include John la Walche, 1327 Ireland. Roger la Walesche, 1400 Ireland. Between the 11th and 15th centuries it became customary for surnames to be assumed in Europe, but were not commonplace in England or Scotland before the Norman Conquest of 1066. They are to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086. Those of gentler blood assumed surnames at this time, but it was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that second names became general practice for all people. 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. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another. The name appears in Scotland in 1360, when John Walshe was a juror on an inquest held at Roxburgh. John Walch was a tenant of the Earl of Douglas in the barony of Kylboulo in 1376. Sir Robert Vleche, a cleric, was the vicar of Tynron in 1548, and John Walcht was a witness in 1467. Robert Vleshe appears as the burgess of Dumfries in 1686.
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