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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2015

Origins Available: English, French

Where did the English Bernier family come from? What is the English Bernier family crest and coat of arms? When did the Bernier family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Bernier family history?

The Bernier surname comes from the Norman given name Bernier, which is Germanic in origin, coming from "bern" meaning "bear," and "hari," or "army."


Endless spelling variations are a prevailing characteristic of Norman surnames. Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules, and the introduction of Norman French added an unfamiliar ingredient to the English linguistic stew. French and Latin, the languages of the court, also influenced spellings. Finally, Medieval scribes generally spelled words according to how they sounded, so one person was often referred to by different spellings in different documents. The name has been spelled Berner, Berners, Berniers, Burner, Burners, Burniers, Barners, Bearners and many more.

First found in Surrey where they held a family seat as Lords of the Manor of Therfield. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, having prevailed over King Harold, granted most of Britain to his many victorious Barons. It was not uncommon to find a Baron, or a Bishop, with 60 or more Lordships scattered throughout the country. These he gave to his sons, nephews and other junior lines of his family and they became known as under-tenants. They adopted the Norman system of surnames which identified the under-tenant with his holdings so as to distinguish him from the senior stem of the family. After many rebellious wars between his Barons, Duke William, commissioned a census of all England to determine in 1086, settling once and for all, who held which land. He called the census the Domesday Book, [1] indicating that those holders registered would hold the land until the end of time. Hence, conjecturally, the surname is descended from the tenant of the lands in Essex at Roding Berniers and Bernston who was recorded in the Domesday Book census of 1086. They are believed to be descended from Hugh de Berniers in Normandy near Falaise. They also held in Cambridge at Eversdon, his main domain.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bernier research. Another 313 words (22 lines of text) covering the years 1265, 1510, 1600, 1504, 1467, 1533, 1495, 1529, 1516 and 1518 are included under the topic Early Bernier History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 83 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bernier Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


To escape the political and religious persecution within England at the time, many English families left for the various British colonies abroad. The voyage was extremely difficult, though, and the cramped, dank ships caused many to arrive in the New World diseased and starving. But for those who made it, the trip was most often worth it. Many of the families who arrived went on to make valuable contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. An inquiry into the early roots of North American families reveals a number of immigrants bearing the name Bernier or a variant listed above:

Bernier Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Johannes Bernier, who landed in Georgia in 1742

Bernier Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Mauricio Bernier, who landed in Puerto Rico in 1816
  • John J Lambert Bernier, who landed in New York in 1824
  • Herm Bernier, who arrived in America in 1848
  • F Bernier, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1855


  • Sylvie Bernier (b. 1964), Canadian diver, gold medal winner at the 1984 Olympics
  • Georges Bernier (1929-2005), French humorist and founder of Hara Kiri magazine
  • Leo Edward Bernier (b. 1929), Canadian politician from Ontario
  • Étienne-Alexandre Bernier, French religious figure and Royalist politician during the French Revolution


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  1. ^ Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)

Other References

  1. Marcharn, Frederick George. A Constitutional History of Modern England 1485 to the Present. London: Harper and Brothers, 1960. Print.
  2. Lennard, Reginald. Rural England 1086-1135 A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959. Print.
  3. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  4. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  5. Mills, A.D. Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4).
  6. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  7. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, The Privy Council, Knightage and Compainonage. London: Burke Publishing, 1921. Print.
  8. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  9. Shirley, Evelyn Philip. Noble and Gentle Men of England Or Notes Touching The Arms and Descendants of the Ancient Knightley and Gentle Houses of England Arranged in their Respective Counties 3rd Edition. Westminster: John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, 1866. Print.
  10. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  11. ...

The Bernier Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Bernier Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 15 January 2014 at 11:06.

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