Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Weir Name
Weir is a name which is thought to originate from the north western portion of medieval France, just below Brittany. A topographical name It was originally spelled de Ver , while a similar spelling came with the Norse warriors who settled along the French coast line from Le Treport to St-Malo. A Wyr or Weir was a medieval device which when placed in a river channels fish into a woven net or basket. It could also mean a meeting place. A German variant of the name is Wire.
Surnames in Britain prior to the Norman conquest were largely unheard of. In the small settlements and villages which existed during earlier times, residents found little need for surnames as everyone in these communities new each other and a given name would usually suffice. However, with the passage of time, population growth and expansions of communities as villages gave way to towns and cities, it became necessary to add a qualifier to a people’s names to distinguish them, one from another. Therefore one person may have been identified by their given name plus their occupation while another may have been identified by their given name and one of their parent’s names. The introduction of surnames by the Norman aristocracy after the invasion seemed to be the next logical step in this evolution. There was a boundless supply from which surnames could be formed, in addition to the use of patriarchal/matriarchal names or reference to the individuals occupation, there were things such as defining physical traits, a familiar geographical location or a topographical landmark found near the individuals home or birthplace, the name of the village in which the person lived, and so much more. Soon, surnames would come not just to represent an individual but whole families.
There often exists variations in spelling of many surnames, as with many given names which date back to the early centuries. The variation in spelling of both given and surnames during this time period can be attributed to a lack of continuity regarding guidelines for spelling which was compounded by the diversity of languages in use in European countries at this time. The variations in the spelling of the surname: Wear: Weir; Wier, Wire; Wryer; Ver, de Ver and Vere.
Sir Ralph ( Ralf, or Radalphus)-There are multiple spellings, de Ver is recorded as being King William the Lion of Scotland’s battle companion in 1174 AD at the battle Alnwick, where they were both captured trying to wrest control of Northumbria away from English control. Sir Ralph de Ver appears as signing witness to the treaty of Falaise, which allowed William the Lion to have his freedom at the cost of loosing all rights to the northern England. It should also be noted the Weir family was not the only Norman lowland clan to build up their castles, and clansmen in the lowlands of Scotland, as Clans Bruce; Douglas; Fraser, and Stirling all have their roots in Normandy; but by the 14th century, what might have started as Norman knights adventuring, had become Scottish clans and families who fought fiercely in the Scottish wars of independence.
The Weir family became one of the early converts to what would become the Protestant church, with a Lanarskshire Weir named, Thomas Weir, Major. Who served in the Protestant army of the Covenant who shipped over to Ireland to protect the protestant plantations in the north of Ireland in the 1600’s. Many a dark and foul deed was placed before his name. The troops called him the Bowhead Saint for his actions. A saint at the time, was a euphemism for someone who was a zealot in their persecutions of non-protestants, chiefly being the Irish catholic citizens under the English covenant army. Bowhead is a location in Edinburgh, Scotland where he once resided. In the later years of his life, his foul deeds were made public and he was one of the last people in Scotland to be tried and sentenced to death by burning as a witch.
With the expansion of the British interest in Ireland and abroad, the Weir family members were some of the first to immigrate to different lands to make their fortune. Large number of Weir clansmen moved to Northern Ireland as part of the English/Protestant resettlement program enacted during the later half of the 1600’s. Ulster protestants came to America in the 1600’s and 1700’s in a steady flow to what were then considered the English colonies, Massachusetts; Virginia; and South Carolina. Martha Weir age 21 with her son John Weir age 1 traveled from Rotterdam Charleston, SC in 1766, originating out of Londonderry, Ireland. One of of the 3 times removed ancestors of President George Walker Bush was a certain James Hutcheson Weir born in Virginia in 1789, and died in 1832 in Cooper, County Missouri in 1832.
The Weir family has a long and storied history. They have been knights, baronets, witnesses to history, large land holders, and workers of the soil. The Weir surname has split many times, and their surname has been adopted or hyphenated to keep familial inheritances alive. Notably the Parliamentarian Hope-Weir, who married the sole child or Sir William Weir, and it is through this union the Blackwood estates of Lanarkshire retained the Weir surname. Weir family members have through their efforts managed to spread themselves and their descendants to the farthest reaches of the globe. They have even helped to create the lineage of two American Presidents.
Notable persons associated with the surname of Weir:
King William I of Scotland; David I, David II, Robert the Bruce, William of Orange, Queen Mary, James II, Presidents George Walker and George Herbert Bush, Bob (Robert) Weir musician with the Grateful Dead.
Places associated with the surname of Weir:
Lanarkshire, Edinburgh, Scotland. Calvados, Normandy France. House of Parliament, London, Weir Bedfordshire, England. Weir, Texas, Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska USA.
Weir Coat of Arms Meaning
The three main devices (symbols) in the Weir blazon are the mullet, fesse and crescent. The three main tinctures (colors) are argent, or and azure .
Argent is the heraldic metal Silver and is usually shown as very pure white. It is also known more poetically as pearl, moon (or luna) . In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper .
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.. Along with, argent, or silver it forms the two “metals” of heraldry – one of the guidelines of heraldic design is that silver objects should not be placed upon gold fields and vice versa . The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo..
The bright, strong blue color in Heraldry is known in English as azure, and similarly in other European languages – azul in Spanish, azurro in Italian and azur in French. The word has its roots in the Arabic word lazura, also the source of the name of the precious stone lapis lazuli . Despite this, those heralds who liked to associate colours with jewels chose instead to describe blue as Sapphire. According to Wade, the use of this colour symbolises “Loyalty and Truth” .
The heraldic mullet, not to be confused with the fish of that name, is shown as a regular, five pointed star. This was originally, not an astronomical object, but represented the spur on a horseman’s boot, especially when peirced, with a small circular hole in the centre it represents a type of spur known as a “rowel” . A clear example can be found in the arms of Harpendene, argent, a mullet pierced gules. The ancient writer Guillim associated such spurs in gold as belonging to the Knight, and the silver to their esquires . In later years, Wade linked this five pointed star with the true celestial object, the estoile and termed it a “falling star”, symbolising a “divine quality bestowed from above” .
The fesse (also found as fess) is one of the major ordinaries to found in heraldry, being a bold, broad, horizontal band across the centre of the shield. It may originally have arisen from the planks of which a wooden shield can be constructed, the centremost plank being painted a different colour . It is instantly recognisable as a symbol, for example the arms of COLEVILLE granted during the reign of Hery III are simply or, a fesse gules. With this clear association with the construction of the shield itself, Wade believes that the fesse can be taken to be associated with the military, as a “girdle of honour”.
For easy recognition of the items on a coat of arms, and hence the quick identification of the owner, bold simple shapes are best. Hence, simple geometric shapes are often used for this purpose xz`, and the crescent Is a typical example of this, and can appear in any of the main heraldic tinctures. Some common is this device that there are special names for its appearance in various orientations – whilst it lies normally with points upward, the decrescent points to the sinister side, and the increscent to the dexter . The allusion, obviously is to the shape of the moon in the sky (indeed, the French have a version “figuré” which includes a face!) and has been said to signify both “honour by the sovereign” and “hope of greater glory” .