This unusual and long-established surname is of Anglo-Saxon, and is now confined chiefly to northern English and Scottish regions. Shanks or Shank is a nickname for someone with particularly long legs, or some peculiarity of gait. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century word "sceanca", meaning shin-bone, leg, which was preserved in Scotland and northern England while in the rest of the county the Olde Norse word "leggr", leg, was adopted, although the surname remained in England for a while, as in Stephen Schankes, recorded in the Norfolk Hundred Rolls of 1275. In Scotland, Murdoch Shank had a charter of lands at Kinghorn, Fife, from Robert the Bruce in 1319. John Shanks (died 1636) was a principal actor in the early years of the 17th Century, and is listed in the Shakespeare folio of 1623. A Coat of Arms was granted on August 15th 1562, to a family of the name who resided at Rollesby, Norfolk, and depicts a gold fess between three gold escallops on a purple shield. The escallop or scallop shell, was used as a badge by pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land, and symbolizes venture to foreign lands and Fidelity. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Lefwine Scanches which was dated 1095, in the "Records of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds", Suffolk, during the reign of King William 11, known as "Rufus", 1087 - 1100. 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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