This interesting and unusual surname is of Spanish and Portuguese origin, and is a locational name from any of the several places called Meneses or Menezes, notably in the province of Palencia, Spain. These places were originally established by settler from Mena. Mena derives from the Old Spanish "mean", battlement (Latin "minae" (plural)), and may also have been used in a transferred sense for anyone who lived on a pinnacle or high spot. During the Middle Ages, when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Meneses and Menezes. Recordings of the surname from Portuguese Church Registers include: the birth of Jorge Moniz, son of Garcia Moniz and Catharina Menezes, at Cancia-Maderia, Funchal, in 1493; the birth of Maria, daughter of Lancarote and Catharina Menezes, in 1507, at Machico-Maderia, Funchal; and the marriage of Maria Menezes and Francisco Nunes Machado at the same place, on March 14th 1640. A Coat of Arms granted to the family is a field chequy silver and blue. In Heraldry, silver signifies Peace and Sincerity, and blue denotes Loyalty and Truth. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henrique Menezes, which was dated 1482, born to Vasco Martins and Joanna Menezes, at Machico-Maderia, Funchal, Portugal, during the reign of King John 11 of Portugal, known as "The Great and the Perfect", 1481 - 1495. 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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