This interesting surname is of medieval English origin, and is a metonymic occupational name for a man responsible for the maintenance and provision of palfreys. A palfrey was a light saddle horse especially ridden by women, and derives from the Middle English "palfrey", saddle-horse, from the Old French "palefrei", from the medieval Latin "palafredus", from the Late Latin "paraveredus", which is composed of the Greek element "para", beside, and the latin "veredus", light fleet horse. Job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. Ralph Palefray is noted in the Boldon Book of Durham (1183), and Gilbert Palfrey is listed in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Norfolk. In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Palfrey, Palfery, Parffrey, Parfrey, Palfree and Palfrie. Recordings of the surname from London Church Registers include: the marriage of Wyllim Palfree and Elizabetha Deiman on February 6th 1598, at St. Luke's, Chelsea, and the christening of Jane, daughter of Mathew and Alic Palfree at St. Botolph without Aldgate, on September 9th 1707. The Coat of Arms most associated with the family depicts a gold chevron between three gold horses at full speed on a black shield. In Heraldry gold denotes Generosity and Elevation of Mind and black signifies Constancy. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hunfridus Palefrei, which was dated 1148, in the "Book of Winton", Hampshire, during the reign of King Stephen, known as "Count of Blois", 1135 - 1154. 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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