It is recorded in over two hundred separate spellings, including such varied forms as George, Jorg, Georgius, Hirche, Hirjak, Horak, Horik, Hiroz, Hiriza, Yurak, to Jorat, Yegorov and Djordjevic. The first known recording of the family name anywhere is that of Hugo Georgii, of the county of Norfolk, England, in 1222.
George became established as a personal name in classical times through its association with the fashion for pastoral, rustic poetry. Its popularity in western Europe increased at the time of the Crusades, when it became the practice for returning crusaders and pilgrims to name their children after biblical figures from the Old Testament. St. George was associated with a martyr of the 3rd century who had modest popularity. But for some reason by the end of the Middle Ages, the name of St. George had become associated with an unhistorical legend of dragon-slaying exploits, which caught the popular imagination, and increased usage of the name.
The range and volume of spellings since the 12th century makes it very difficult for researchers to provide examples of all the ongoing developments over the past seven centuries, and examples have to be selected at random from the surviving medieval European recordings.
These include: Everadus Georgii of Hamburg, Germany, in the year 1256, and William George, in the London registers, dated 1412. William Georgeson was a landholder in Scotland, having the tenancy of Coupar Grange, in 1471, whilst Henry George, aged 19 yrs., was one of the first settlers to the New World, being recorded in Virginia in 1635. Rudolf Horak was a christening witness when his daughter Veronika was christened at Roven, Pardubice, Czecholslovakia, on March 21st 1680, and Geronimo de Hiroz, is recorded at Valadolid, Spain, on January 27th 1727.
The George surname has numerous members far and wide. Because the name was adopted by so many families, in so many nations, it is certain most people who hold it are unrelated to one another. There are probably over half a million people (500,000-600,000) in the world with the George surname, with 140,000 of them in the North America alone.
Coat of Arms
Under the traditions of English and Scottish heraldry, coat of arms are solely granted to individuals. They are not hereditary per se, and are strictly regulated by the UK College of Arms. They can be passed to direct descendants upon death (but only with minor changes), and are genuinely considered legal property of a single identity. This means it is very unlikely that a living George could rightfully claim an association any particular George coat of arms from the UK.
Additionally, because there are so many people with the George surname from Ireland, Germany, France, the Netherlands and many other places, families from these countries could all have a unique coat of arms. Only by tracing ones ancestor's migrations back to these locations could you hope to find an association to a specific arms.
As far as we know, no one on our branch of the George family line was ever granted a coat of arms. However, there is an arms listed in the General Armoury of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, 1884, for an individual who lived in the same region as our ancestors in Cornwall - Salathiel George. He was from the county of Trenouth which is within 20km of the town of St. Teath. Perhaps there is a yet unknown distant relationship all the way back in 1620, in which case we might claim at least tertiary association with this arms.
The description listed in the General Armoury is as follows;
|George (Trenouth, co. Cornwall; Salathiell George, descended from Osmonton, co. Dorset, and Come, co. Gloucester. Visit. 1620). Ar. on a fess betw. three doves volant az. as many bezants, each charged with a lion's head erased sa. Crest—A demi-talbot ramp. sa. gorged with a collar dancette'e, and eared or., betw. two laurel branches vert.|
When translated it describes the arms as;
'Silver field with a blue band between three flying blue doves, with three severed black lion heads upon golden coins across the band. Crest- An upright black dog with a toothed golden collar and golden ears, framed between two green laurel branches.'
Blue (Azure) was used for loyalty and truth. It was often used in describing the class of gentlemen beneath the level of baron. Silver (Argent) typically meant nobility or serenity. The dove signified peace, innocence and gentleness. The bezants or gold coins, symbolized wealth.
Mention of the same Salathiel is found in a book of illustrations by Hans Holbein called Facsimiles of original drawings by Hans Holbein, in the collection of His Majesty for the Portraits of Illustrious Persons of the Court of Henry VIII, Francis Bartolozzi, 1884. This engraving below is said to be of Simon George, Salathiel's father, a minor figure in the court of Henry VIII. Its text mentions the correct dates and locations also listed in the arms description, and even provides a brief family line. Unfortunately it indicates there were likely no male descendants of Salatheil, at least as of 1620. This does not mean there were none born afterward, and doesn't preclude a link to by way of another yet unknown brother or uncle to Simon George in Cornwall. There is a gap of perhaps three or four generations between our oldest confirmed ancestor, John George, and Simon. The Hans Holbein painting to the right is of Simon George as well.
From the Bartolozzi book;
|Simon George, of Quocoute, in the country of Cornwall, was the son of a private gentleman of his names, who acquired property at that place, and lived there, and whose father came from Gloucestershire into Dorsetshire, and settled at Osmondton, in the latter country; his mother was descended from a good family of the name Hussey. He married Thomasine, daughter of Richard Lanyon, a gentleman of an ancient Cornish house, and had by her two sons, Simon, who died without issue; and Salathiel, who settled at Trenouth, and was living there in 1620, having at that time three daughters, Anne, Elizabeth, and Thomasine.|
These men's names are also referenced in an article in the West Briton on July 19th, 1928, contributed by the historian Charles Henderson. It describes a visit to St. Agnes church in Cornwall by the Dean and Chapter of Exeter in November, 1608;
At St. Agnes the local gentry were in trouble. Simon George, gentleman, and Richard Cleder were presented "for brawling and scolding in Church"; Peter Beacham, gentleman, "for using unseemly speeches and railing words in the church." Salathiel George and Edward George, gentlemen, for the like; and Margaret, wife of John Paull, ' for scolding in the churchyard" with Katherine, wife of Richard Danyell. They were all excommunicated, paid their fines, and received absolution. Last of all, Margaret Plemyn, alias Chinoweth, executrix of John Plemyn, late Vicar of Perran, was excommunicated for allowing the ' House for the Curate" at St. Agnes to be much decayed and refusing to restore it.
Admittedly it is hard to believe that this Simon is the same one in the portrait, as this would put him at near 100 years old by then. Salathiel, however is a rare enough name to be distinct. It is not known who the Edward George mentioned with Salathiel is.
Other past George holders of an English arms can also be found in Armorial Families: a directory of gentlemen of coat-armour, 1905, or in Fairbairn's Book of Crests of the families of Great Britain and Ireland, 1905, and include;
- Frederic Brand George, Esq., of Wells, Somerset, a demi talbot per fesse indented sa., and gu., charged on the shoulder with a bezant, thereon a lion's head arased of the second, and resting the sinister paw on the garb vert. Strive to attain.
- Douglas Stewart George, Esq., Or a fesse between three falcons rising azure, membered gules. Mantling azure, double or. Crest, on a wreath of his liveries, the sun shining on a sun flower proper. Sol et scutum Deus. 1903.
- William Edwards George, Esq., of Downside, Stoke Bishop, Bristol, a demi talbot rampant sa., eared and collared, indented or, between two fir branches vert. Magna est veritas et prevalebit.
All of the arms cited look quite different from one another. Douglas George's with the three doves is the most similar to Salathiell George's. Other English George arms used the three bird theme as well, sometimes making them hawks or falcons.
For interest, displayed are a selection of coat of arms held by past Georges of various lands.
David Lloyd George (1863-1945), British statesman, Prime Minister of England from 1916 to 1922
Edward Alan John George (b. 1938), Governor of the Bank of England from 1993 to 2003
Henry George (1839-1897), American economist
Herbert George (1593-1633), English poet
James Zachariah George (1826-1897), American jurist and legislator
Jean Craighead George (b. 1919), American author
Lowell George (1945-1979), American musician, singer and guitarist
Simon George (~1510- ), English courtier of Henry VIII, subject of painting by Holbein
Thomas Neville George (1904-1980), Welsh Professor of Geology
Last updated December 18, 2011