This most interesting and unusual surname is one of the earliest on British registers. Of French locational origins, the name holds some of the earliest claims to nobility in Britain. It was first introduced into England by close companions of William the Conqueror at his invasion of 1066, and they were rewarded for their efforts with large estates, particularly in the North of England. The original spelling should have been 'Montbrai' from the village so called in La Manche, Normandy, where they came from, however it seems the name was never recorded as such in England. This makes all the many subsequent forms of the surname as shown below, variant spellings, an unusual feature in itself. The name translates as 'the muddy place on the hill', a humble beginning for a name which has achieved so much. The surname is now variously recorded world-wide as Mowbray, Mowbury, Moubray, Mumbray, Membry, Momery, Mummery, Me(m)mory, Mulb(e)ry, and Mulberry, the move away from the original spellings over the centuries being truly remarkable. Early recordings of the name include Roger de Mulbrai in the 1130 Rolls of Whitby, Yorkshire, where the family held great estates, Paganus de Moubrai (1150, Oxfordshire), and Roger de Munbrai of Lincolnshire in 1185, both being members of the Knights Templar. Joseph Memory is recorded in London in 1584, whilst the Friary Rolls of Leicestershire include the recordings of John Mowbray in 1714, John Mumory in 1725, and John Membry in 1748. Amongst the many interesting name holders was Thomas de Mowbray (1366 - 1399), Earl Marshall of England, and the first Duke of Norfolk. The original coat of arms, granted in 1297, one of the most ancient ever recorded and predating the College of Arms by two centuries, has the highly distinctive and unmistakeable blazon of a red field, charged with a silver lion rampant. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Rodbeard a Mundbraeg, which was dated 1087, in the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicles', during the reign of King William 1, known as 'The Conqueror', 1066 - 1087. 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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