This interesting surname is of Old French origin, and was introduced into England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is a locational name from the port of Calais in Northern France, which is on the Strait of Dover and is the nearest French port to England. Calais belonged to England between the years of 1347 and 1558, and is believed to mean "inlet" or "strait". Locational names were originally given as a means of identification to those who left their village or place of origin to settle elsewhere.The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 11th Century (see below). Richard de Caliz is noted in the 1190 Pipe Rolls of Gloucestershire, and Henricus de Calays is listed in the 1379 Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire. In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Callis and Calliss. Recordings of the surname from London Church Registers include: the christening of Henry, son of Henry Callis, on March 13th 1560, at St. Michael Bassishaw; the christening of Sara, daughter of Jeffery Callis, on February 1st 1601, at Allhallows, Bread Street; and the marriage of Anthonie Callis and Isbell Brookman on December 15th 1608, at St. James' Clerkenwell. A Coat of Arms granted to the family depicts three silver towers, on each a gold demi-lion rampant, on a red shield, the Crest being out of a ducal coronet a cockatrice's head between two wings proper. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Caleio, which was dated 1086, in the "Inquisitio Eliensis", during the reign of King William 1, known as "The Conqueror", 1066 - 1087. 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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