This is a famous Spanish locational surname. It derives from a place called Alvarado, which translates as 'the place on the hot plain' or similar. Rather more interestingly this is one the first, and indeed may even be the first, Spanish hereditary surname to be recorded in America. In fact its recordings pre-date the formation of the American State, and originate from the time when Mexico, as part of the Spanish Empire, controlled what is now California. The modern state of California only joined the new USA in 1850, and then as a result of the 1849 Gold Rush. California was originally called 'New Albion' by the Elizabethan explorer and occasional pirate Sir Francis Drake, who landed there in 1579. However Britain being more concerned with settling the Eastern Seaboard, did not bother about the West until it was too late. The original 'Alvarado' name holders were recorded in the 18th century in various parts of Southern California, and examples of these recordings taken from the early records include Juan Jose Alvarado, christened at San Diego on May 13th 1769, Juan Bautista Alvarado, a witness at Santa Barbara, on May 18th 1790. The coat of arms has the blazon of a gold shield, charged with five blue cinque foils in orle, in chief a canton of silver with three bars wavy in blue. The coat of arms suggests sea-farers who achieved great success. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Francisco de Maria Alvarado, which was dated 1472, in the charters of the state of Castille, Spain, during the reign of King Henry 1V of Leon and Castille, reigned 1454 - 1474. 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.