This ancient surname of many spellings, is a "crusader" import into Europe from the Holy Land. Recorded as Elliss, Elix, Ellice, Eles, Elias, Heelis, and many other forms, it derives from the Greek "Elias", itself from the Hebrew "Eliyahu", and meaning "Jehovah is God". The name became popular among Christians in the Middle Ages partly because of its adoption by various early saints and martyrs including a 7th Century Bishop of Syracuse, but mainly as a reult of soldiers and pilgrims from the 11th and 12th century crusades. These people on their return home, often christened their children with the ancient names of the Old Testament in memory of the father's efforts to free the Holy Land from the Saracens. The fact that there were twelve such expeditions and all were unsuccessful, does not appear to have dimmed their enthusiasm.The earliest of all hereditary surnames and their recording, was in England, and it is here that we find the first examples of the surname. These include in the year 1202, William Elis in the charters relating to the Danelaw of the county of Lincolnshire, and Robert Elys or Helys, who was listed in the Calendar of Documents for the county of Essex, in 1250. One of the first settlers in the New England colonies was Richard Ellis, aged 29 yrs., who left London on the ship "Bonaventure", bound for Virginia in January 1634. The first recorded spelling of the family name anywhere in the world, is believed to be that of William Elyas, which was dated 1200, in the tax returns for the county of Yorkshire. This was during the reign of King John of England , 1199 - 1216. Throughout the centuries surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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