This German surname YERKESS was originally derived from the English, French and German surname of GEORGE : a Greek personal name GEORGIOS meaning a farmer, from the compound GE (earth) and ERGEIN (to work and till). Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. Its popularity increased at the time of the crusades, which brought greater contact with the Orthodox Church in which there was a thriving cult of an obscure saint of this name, supposedly martyred at Nicodemia in AD 303, although the authenticity of his very existence is doubtful. In 1348 Edward III founded the Order of the Garter under the patronage of St.George, and in 1415 his day was made a festival of the highest rank. Many other chivalrous orders assumed him as their patron; and he was adopted as guardian saint of Aragon and Portugal. By the end of the Middle Ages he had acquired an entirely unhistorical legend of dragon-slaying exploits, which caught the popular imagination throughout Europe, and was considered the patron saint of England, which is celebrated on the 23rd April. 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. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe.
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