This interesting surname is of early medieval French origins. It was a nickname and one of a large group of early European surnames from that source. Nicknames were given with reference to occupation or in particular physical attributes, mental characteristics, habits of dress, or resemblance to an animal or bird. In this instance the surname has two possible sources. It may derive from the Old French word "gris", meaning grey, and would have been a nickname for a grey-haired person or for someone who wore grey clothes, perhaps a monk. Secondly it may have been occupational for a swineherd, agains from the early Fernch word "grice", pig or hog. The surname is early with examples being Robert le Gris in the Feet of Fines of Norfolk in 1185, Leticia Grise in the Assize Rolls of Kent in 1317; and Richard Grice, a Freeman of the city of York in 1413. In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Grice, Grise, Griss, Le Grice, Legrice and Le Grys. A coat of arms granted to the family has the blazon of a gold field charged with a red chevron between three boars heads, the crest being a blackamoors head between two gold wings. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Gris. This was dated 1176, in the Pipe Rolls of Northumberland, during the reign of King Henry 11nd, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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