This is a Spanish-Portuguese locational name of Roman (Latin) origins. It derives from the ancient word "alveus", which literally translates as "the river bed", and was an introduction by the Roman invaders of the 3rd Century A.D. The modern town of Alva and the River Alva are the sources of the surname which appears in several variant spellings. The preposition "de" or "di" when preceding a habitational surname is normally associated with lordship of the estates in question and has for many centuries been regarded as a mark of aristocracy. The name is most commemorated by the 1st Duke of Alva who conquered Portugal in 1580, the county becoming independent again in 1640. The final "es" indicates the patronymic form. In August 1546, Ignes, daughter of Viollante Alves, was christened at Espirito Santo, Canico-Maderia, Funchal, Portugal, and Antonio, son of Thome and Violante Alvis, was christened at Santa Beatriz, Agua de Pena, Funchal, on March 8th 1577. The modern form is a very rare corrupted variant. The Coat of Arms most associated with the family depicts a gold lion rampant on a blue shield, overall a red bend charged with three silver fleurs-de-lis. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Amador Alves, which was dated February 27th 1541, witness at the christening of his son, Alvaro, at Espirito Santo, Conico-Maderia, Funchal, Portugal, during the reign of King John 111 of Portugal, 1521 - 1557. 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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