Show ContentsBarnhill History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Barnhill is rooted in the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture. It was a name for someone who was a person with brown hair or a dark complexion. The surname Barnhill is derived from the Old English word burnel. This word comes from the Old French word brunel, which is a diminutive of the Old French word brun. Normally a nickname, Barnhill was also used as a personal name.

Early Origins of the Barnhill family

The surname Barnhill was first found in Shropshire where they were a family of great antiquity. They held a family seat at Acton Burnell in the county of Salop where they were found as early as 1087 according to Dugdale. They also acquired Holgate in the same shire and one of the first on record was Lesire le Burnell, whose son Robert Burnell (1239-1292) was Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1275 and Lord Chancellor of England from 1274-1292. He was "descended from a knightly family in Shropshire, and was born at their seat of Acton Burnell, near Shrewsbury. After he became famous the monks of Buildwas forged a genealogy which traced his family back to the Conquest." [1]

"That this family has been of great antiquity here in England, an old Martyrologe (sometime belonging to the abbey of Buildewas, county Salop) doth plainly demonstrate: for thereby appeareth that Sir Robert Burnell, knt, died 15 November, 1087; Sir Philip, 14 December, 1107; Sir Roger, 5 February, 1140; Sir Hugh, 7 January, 1189; Sir Hugh, 12 May, 1242; and another Sir Robert, 6 December, 1249." [2]

However, another source disputes this entry and postulates: "This evidence is too minutely circumstantial as regards dates to be above suspicion; and with the exception of Robert and Philip, none of the Christian names given are found in the records, nor even these at the same periods. An Ingelram Burnell was living in 1165; and a William Burnell attested one of the charters of Wenlock Abbey in 1170. (Eyton's Salop.) They were seated in Shropshire, where they have left their name to the village of Acton Burnell, and Eudon Burnell. The first mention of them at Acton (Actune, the oak town) is found in the Testa de Nevill, where it is stated that William and Gerain Burnell held half a fee there. [3] A passage in the Hundredorum Rolls, evidently referable to the time of Henry III., proves that Robert Burnell then held it in fee of Thomas Corbet. William had joined the rebellious barons; but Robert, a churchman of remarkable ability, was the "secretary and confidential clerk" of Prince Edward, and his most trusted and valued counsellor when he became King." [4]

Another branch of the family was found in the parish of Sibthorpe in Nottinghamshire. "This place was anciently of some importance, and was the residence of the Burnell family, of whose spacious mansion, however, no remains now exist." [5]

The parish of Acton-Burnell is of great importance to the family too. "This place, which is of considerable antiquity, is on a branch of the Roman Watling-street. It takes the adjunct to its name from the family of Burnell, of whom Robert, Bishop of Bath and Wells, and Lord High Chancellor in the reign of Edward I., had a castle in the parish, of which there are still some remains. Nicholas Burnell, a distinguished warrior in the reign of Edward III., was born and buried here." [5]

Early History of the Barnhill family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Barnhill research. Another 290 words (21 lines of text) covering the years 1272, 1274, 1292, 1283, 1571, 1542 and 1641 are included under the topic Early Barnhill History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Barnhill Spelling Variations

Barnhill has been spelled many different ways. Before English spelling became standardized over the last few hundred years, spelling variations in names were a common occurrence. As the English language changed in the Middle Ages, absorbing pieces of Latin and French, as well as other languages, the spelling of people's names also changed considerably, even over a single lifetime. Many variations of the name Barnhill have been found, including Burnell, Burnhill, Byrnell and others.

Early Notables of the Barnhill family (pre 1700)

Distinguished members of the family include Edward Burnell (fl. 1542), English professor of Greek at Rostock, Germany. [1] Henry Burnell (fl. 1641), the dramatist, belongs to the Anglo-Irish family of Burnell, which acquired considerable estates in Leinster...
Another 36 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Barnhill Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Barnhill Ranking

In the United States, the name Barnhill is the 3,214th most popular surname with an estimated 9,948 people with that name. [6]

Ireland Migration of the Barnhill family to Ireland

Some of the Barnhill family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 33 words (2 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Barnhill migration to the United States +

In an attempt to escape the chaos experienced in England, many English families boarded overcrowded and diseased ships sailing for the shores of North America and other British colonies. Those families hardy enough, and lucky enough, to make the passage intact were rewarded with land and a social environment less prone to religious and political persecution. Many of these families became important contributors to the young colonies in which they settled. Early immigration and passenger lists have documented some of the first Barnhills to arrive on North American shores:

Barnhill Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Robert Barnhill, who landed in Baltimore, Maryland in 1750 [7]
Barnhill Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • William Barnhill, who landed in Texas in 1835 [7]
  • Rebecca Barnhill, aged 21, who arrived in America from Tyrone, in 1892
  • Sarah Barnhill, aged 50, who arrived in America from County Tyrone, Ireland, in 1892
  • Andrew Barnhill, aged 27, who arrived in America from Glasgow, in 1893
  • J F Barnhill, aged 31, who arrived in America, in 1896
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Barnhill Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Viola G. Barnhill, aged 34, who arrived in America from London, in 1904
  • John B. Barnhill, aged 39, who arrived in America from London, in 1904
  • William O. Barnhill, aged 26, who arrived in America, in 1914
  • Josephine Mary Barnhill, aged 24, who arrived in Washington, DC, in 1915
  • John F. Barnhill, aged 33, who arrived in New York, in 1919
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Barnhill migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Barnhill Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Robert Barnhill, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1761
Barnhill Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century
  • Mary E. Barnhill, aged 32, who immigrated to Saint John N. B., Canada, in 1919
  • Jacob L. Barnhill, aged 62, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1923

Contemporary Notables of the name Barnhill (post 1700) +

  • Maurice Victor Barnhill (1887-1963), American associate justice and Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court (1954-1956)
  • William A. Barnhill (1889-1987), American photographer
  • John Henry "Barnie" Barnhill (1903-1973), American football player and coach
  • Norton Barnhill (b. 1953), retired American basketball player
  • John Anthony "Rabbit" Barnhill (b. 1938), American former professional basketball player
  • Joe Barnhill (b. 1965), American country music singer-songwriter
  • Helen Barnhill, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Wisconsin, 1988; Candidate for U.S. Representative from Wisconsin 5th District, 1988 [8]
  • John Eccles Nixon Barnhill (d. 1971), Ulster Unionist Party member of the Senate of Northern Ireland
  • David Barnhill, Australian former rugby league footballer

The Barnhill Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Caritas fructum habet
Motto Translation: Charity bears fruit.

Suggested Readings for the name Barnhill +

  • Crowe Family (including Barnhill line) History 1700-1972 .

  1. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  2. Dugdale, William. The Antiquities of Warwickshire Illustrated London: Second Edition, 1730. Digital
  3. Testa de Nevill or "Liber Feodorum" or "Book of Fees," thought to have been written by Ralph de Nevill, for King John (1199–1216)
  4. Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 1 of 3
  5. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  6. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  7. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  8. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, January 15) . Retrieved from on Facebook