The story of the Red Hand of Ulster reputedly dates to the arrival of Heremon,
Heber and Ir - sons of King Milesius of Spain (Galicia), who were dispatched to
conquer Ireland in 504 BC. One of them supposedly cut off his hand and tossed it
ashore, that he might be the one to have first claim to the land.
Or a third story that recounts a distant member of the O'Neil family.
Uí Néill and a man named Dermott both wished to be king of Ulster. The High
King suggested a horse race across the land. As the two came in sight of the
ending point, it seemed that Dermott would win, so Uí Néill cut his hand off and
threw it. It reached the goal ahead of Dermott's horse, winning for Uí Néill the
crown of Ulster.
The O'Neil clan of Ireland has possibly been associated with the red hand since
the time of Niall of the Nine Hostages in the 6th century, a semi-mythic figure in
his own right who is considered to be the patriarch of the clan.
But yet other possible origins for the hand include, a representation of the ancient
Celtic sun god Nuadu, or of the open right hand or Dextera Dei of Christian
mythology. One important note is that most Neilson arms display a left hand, as
opposed to the right hand commonly used for the Red Hand of Ulster. The
meaning of this distinction is unknown, but typically a left hand of the era is
associated with wickedness.
Neilsons of Corsock - argent, three hands, bend sinister, two in chief, and one in
base, holding a dagger azure, with a crescent in the centre for the difference.
Crest, a dexter hand, holding a lance erect, proper. Motto: Hic Regi servitium.
Red (Gules) was used for fortitude and creative power. Silver (Argent) typically
meant nobility or serenity. The sword or dagger would be used to indicate justice,
often military justice. A crescent is the cadence mark of a second son.
The crests of several Neilson arms are also found in Fairbairn's Book of Crests,
1905, including the one described above featuring a lance. This crest is also the
same as described for the Craigcaffie Neilsons, perhaps showing a connection.
Until the emancipation of the Jews in the late 18th century, most Jews in Europe
used the traditional system of patrimonial Hebrew surnames. Exceptions included
Jewish communities in large cities such as Prague or Frankfurt am Main, where
many of the names were derived from house-signs; and rabbinical dynasties,
which often used a town name, typically the birthplace of the founder of the
dynasty. Such surnames were much easier to shed or change than they would be
today, and did not have the official status that modern ones do.
The process of assigning permanent surnames to Jewish families (most of which
are still used to this day) began in Austria-Hungary. On 23 July 1787, five years
after the Edict of Tolerance, the Austrian emperor Joseph the second issued a
decree called Das Patent über die Judennamen which compelled the Jews to
adopt German surnames. Prussia did so soon after, beginning with Silesia:
the city of Breslau in 1790, the Breslau administrative region in 1791, the Liegnitz
region in 1794. In 1812, when Napoleon had occupied much of Prussia, surname
adoption was mandated for the unoccupied parts; and Jews in the rest of Prussia
adopted surnames in 1845.
Napoleon also, in a decree of July 20, 1808, insisted upon the Jews adopting
fixed names His decree covered all lands west of the Rhine; and many other
parts of Germany required surname-adoption within a few years. Oldenburg was
the last principality to complete the process, in 1852.
At the end of the 18th century after the Partition of Poland the Russian Empire
acquired a large number of Jews who did not use surnames. They, too, were
required to adopt surnames during the early 19th century.