This is a famous Portugese locational surname, which derives specifically from the town of Almeida in the province of Beira, Portugal, or from one of the several other villages so named. In a sense the origin of Almeida is arabic, in that the word dates back to the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula in the pre 12th century. It translates loosely as "The family (Al) which lives on the plateau (ma'ida)". The Portugese and the Spanish have not always been too proud of any supposed association with the Moorish invaders, however whether that is so or not, the Almeida family nameholders have had no less than three Coats of Arms awarded to them, two in Portugal and one by the former Kingdom of Sicily.The arms follow a similar pattern and include gold torteau or besants on a red field. This style would normally be associated with wealth (gold) and power (red), and we have no reason to suggest otherwise. Recordings in Portugal are erratic, nethertheless we have been able to trace the development from the 16th century, which is quite rare. In its early recordings the name is nearly always found with the aristocratic "de" a form borrowed from France. These recordings include Manoel Gonzales de Almeida, christened at Braga, on July 1st 1694, Maria Almeida who married Domingos Sousa at Rabo de Peixe, Ponta Delgardo, on March 31st 1768, and Antonio Jose D'Almeida, who married Juliana de Jesus, at Boaventura, Funchal, on May 18th 1860. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Manoel Luiz de Almeida, which was dated September 10th 1599, christened at Santo Antao, Madeira, during the reign of King Phillip 11 of Spain (by temporary conquest) 1580-1640. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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