The Ancient History of the Distinguished Surname - NORRIS

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The distinguished surname Norris is one of the most notable Anglo/Saxon surnames, and its historical trail has emerged from the mists of time to become an influential surname of the middle ages and of the present day. In an in-depth research of such manuscripts as the Doomsday Book compiled in 1086 AD, by Duke William of Normandy, the Ragman Rolls (1291-1296) collected be King Edward 1st of England, the Curia Regis Rolls, The Pipe Rolls, The Hearth Rolls, parish registers, baptismal's, tax records and other ancient documents, researchers found the first record of the name Norris in Lancashire where they were seated from early times. Their first records appeared on the early census rolls taken by the early Kings of Britain to determine the rate of taxation of their subjects. Confusing to most, we found many different spellings in the archives researched Although your name, Norris, occurred in many manuscripts, from time to time the surname was also spelt Norreys, Norris, Norres, Norrice, Norrish, and these changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son. There is one record, a father and eight sons. In the graveyard where they are buried, all nine have different spellings of their surnames. Many reasons were revealed for these spelling variations but mainly church officials and scribes spelt the name as it was told to them.

The family name Norris is one of the most notables of the ancient Anglo/Saxon race. This founding race of England, a fair skinned people led by General/Commanders Hengist and Horsa, settled in Kent from about the year 400A.D. The Angles on the other hand occupied the eastern coast. The Anglo/Saxon five-century domination of English society was an uncertain time, and the nation divided into five separate kingdoms, a high king being elected as a supreme ruler. By 1066, King Harold came to the throne of England, which was enjoying reasonable peace and prosperity. However, the Norman invasion from France and their victory at the Battle of Hastings, found many of the vanquished Saxon land owners to be forfeited their land by Duke William and his invading nobles. They became oppressed under Norman rule, and some moved northward to the midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire, even into Scotland. The family name Norris emerged as a notable English family name in the county of Lancashire where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated as Lords of the manor of West Derby and estates in that shire. They branched to Tarlton and Speke in the same county in the suburbs of Liverpool, and intermarried with the Molyeuxs, Earls of Sefton. They branched to Middleforth and also branched to Sutton in Cheshire. Meanwhile the main stem was at Norris Green in Liverpool and the senior line was elevated to the Baron Norreys and the Earls of Berkshire. They also branched to Weston on the Green in Oxfordshire, to Norris in Devon. Notable amongst the family at this time was Baron Norreys.

For the next two or three centuries the surname Norris flourished and played a significant role in the political development of England During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries England was savaged by religious and political conflict. Puritanism, Catholicism, Royalist and parliamentary forces shed much blood. Many families were freely 1encouraged'to migrate to Ireland, or to the 'colonies', Some were rewarded with grants of lands, others were banished. In Ireland, setters became known as the 'Adventurers for land in Ireland'. Called 1undertakers' they undertook to maintain the protestant faith. In Ireland they settled in Dublin and Cork where they became prominent businessmen. Meanwhile the New World beckoned and migration continued some voluntarily from Ireland, but mostly directly from England or Scotland, their home territories. Some clans and families even moved to the European continent. Kinsmen of the family name Norris were amongst the many whom sailed aboard the armada of small sailing ships known as the 'White Sails', which plied the stormy Atlantic. These overcrowded ships were pestilence ridden, sometimes 30% to 40 % of the passenger list never reaching their destination, their numbers reduced by sickness or the elements. Principal amongst the settlers which could be considered a kinsman of the surname Norris, or a variable spelling of that family name was Able and Thomas Norrice settled in Virginia in1643; Edward Norris settled in Salem in 1630; Richard Norris settled in Virginia in 1643; Samuel Norris arrived in Barbados with his servants in 1679; Thomas Norris settled in Virginia in 1647; Aaron, Christopher, David, George, James, John, Mary, Michael, Patrick, Robert, Thomas and William Norris all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860. The trek from the port of entry was also arduous and many joined the wagon trains to the prairies or to the West Coast. During the American War of Independence, many loyalists made their way north to Canada about 1790, and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.

20th century notables of this surname, Norris, include many distinguished persons: Sir Eric Norris; General Sir Frank Norris Australian Physician; Louis Norris, American Lecturer; Robert Norris, American Physician; William Norris, Executive; Ronald Norrish, British Chemist; Sir Alfred Norris; Admiral Sir Charles Norris; Air Chief Marshall Sir Christopher Norris, Colonel Graham Norris.

During the course of the research it was also determined the many Coat of Arms matriculated by the family name. The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was Quarterly: Silver and red, 2nd and third there is a gold trellis design and a blue stripe on which there are three gold stars. The Crest is an eagle rising.

The ancient family motto for this distinguished name is "Feythfully Serve"

Source: The Hall of Names, 31 Kirkwall Close, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, 5R5 3DL. Obtained at the 'National Garden Festival-Gateshead 1990.

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