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Bell




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Surname:  Bell
Branch:  Bell
Origins:  British
More Info:  England

Background:  The name may derive from the French "bel," meaning fair , beautiful, or handsome. Since the derivation is descriptive, common ancestry cannot be assumed for all those bearing the surname. The name was sometimes taken from the sign of an inn or shop. The sign of a bell was frequently used - "John at the Bell" became "John Bell." There is no particular country or province of origin, though the name was fairly prevalent in medieval Scotland and England.




Motto:  Signum pacis amor, Love is the token of peace.
Arms:  Az. three church bells or, two and one, a chief, erm.
Crest:  A portcullis ppr.


View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.




This interesting surname, with variant spellings Bel and Belle, has a number of possible derivations. Firstly, it may be a metonymic occupational name for a bellringer or bellfounder, or a topographical name for someone living "at the bell"; this indicates either residence by an actual bell or "at the sign of the Bell", deriving from the Middle English, Olde English pre 7th Century "belle" meaning bell. Secondly, it may have derived from the medieval given name "Bel". As a man's name this is from the Old French "beu, bel" meaning "handsome", which was also used as a nickname. As a female name it represents a short form of Isobel, a form of Elizabeth. Finally, it may be an Anglicized form of the Gaelic "MacGiolla Mhaoil", "son of the servant of the devotee". The surname dates back to the mid 12th Century (see below). Early recordings include one Robert de la Belle (1222) London. Church recordings show the christening of Mary Bell, an infant, on August 13th 1541, at St. Peter's, Cornhill, London, and the marriage of Margarett Bell to Wylliam Traford on September 13th September 1551, at St. Mary's, Westminster, also in London. One Charles Bell, aged 23 yrs., a famine emigrant, sailed from Liverpool aboard the "Henry Clay", bound for New York, on April 15th 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Seaman Belle, which was dated 1181 - 1187, in "Early London Personal Names", by E. Ekwall, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189.

Name Variations:  Bell, Belle, Beale, Beal, Beals, Beales, Bale, Beel, Biehl, Bale, Beall.

References:
One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
English Surnames; C.M. Matthews - 1966.
A Dictionary of English Surnames; P.H. Reaney - 1958.
Surname Database: http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/bell
About.com: http://genealogy.about.com/od/surname_meaning/p/bell.htm


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