Recorded in over sixty spelling forms as shown below, and found throughout Christian nations, this very interesting medieval surname is of both Biblical and 12th century Crusader origins. These are confused, and like the personal name and subsequent surname Jacob, it has its origins in the Hebrew given name "Yaakov". This was Latinized in the Roman Period of history, first as Jacobus, and then in the period known as "The Dark Ages" upto the 11th century a.d., as Jacomus. The actual meaning of the name is also a matter for some dispute. Traditionally the name is interpreted as coming from the word "akev", meaning a heel, but has also been interpreted as "he who supplanted". Both of these meanings are influenced by the biblical story of Esau and his younger twin brother Jacob. Jacob is said to have been born holding on to Esau's heel, and took advantage of Esau's hunger to persuade him to part with his birthright "for a mess of pottage". For a name with such indistinct origins, it has proved to be a great success story, with spellings ranging from James, Jayume, and Jamie, to Giacomo, Comi, Comiam, Cominetto, Motto, and even Gimson! The first recordings are to be found in England, because England was the first country to adopt both surnames and to properly register them. Examples from early charters include Christiana Jemes of Cambridge, in the Hundred Rolls of the year 1279, whilst one of the first settlers to the new colony of Virginia in the Americas, was Lewis James, who left London, on August 21st 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter James. This was dated 1187, in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Gloucestershire, during the reign of King Henry 11nd, 1154 - 1189.
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