The surname YOELSON has the associated coat of arms is recorded in Rietstaps Armorial General. This surname was from the Jewish Hebrew male given name YOEL, borne by a biblical prophet. The name has many variant spellings which include JOEL, YOELI, JOELY, YOLLICK JOELSON, and JOLLES. When traditional Jews were forced to take family names by the local bureaucracy, it was an obligation imposed from outside traditional society, and people often took the names playfully and let their imaginations run wild by choosing names which corresponded to nothing real in their world. No one alive today can remember the times when Jews took or were given family names (for most Ashkenazim this was the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th) although many remember names being changed after emigration to other countries, such as the United States and Israel in recent years.
Al JOLSON (1886-1950) the singer and actor, was originally called Asa YOELSON. He was born in Russia, the son of A Rabbi who emigrated to America in 1894. When the first immigrants from Europe went to America, the only names current in the new land were Indian names which did not appeal to Europeans vocally, and the Indian names did not influence the surnames or Christian names already possessed by the immigrants. Mostly the immigrant could not read or write and had little or no knowledge as to the proper spelling, and their names suffered at the hands of the government officials. The early town records are full of these mis-spelt names most of which gradually changed back to a more conventional spelling as education progressed. 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. 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.
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