Show ContentsBel History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Bel surname arose independently from several different sources. In some instances, it comes from the Old English word "belle" meaning "bell," and was most likely an occupational name for a bell ringer. It may have also been a name for someone who lived near a bell. Bel is also known to have arisen from the English and Scottish given name Bel, which derived from the Old French "beu" or "bel," meaning "handsome." [1]

"From Le Bel, a surname which frequently occurs in Normandy." [2]

Early Origins of the Bel family

The surname Bel was first found in Dumfriesshire. "John Bell appears as a notary in St. Andrews, 1248. A family of the name appears to have been hereditarily connected with the church of Dunkeld. Master David Bell was a canon there, 1263, and William Bell appears as dean, 1329-42. William Bel, vicar of Lamberton, witnessed a charter to Coldingham Priory, 1271." [3]

At one time, the Clan Bell was well known on the Scottish West March of the Scottish and English borders. But in 1587, the Parliament of Scotland passed a statute: "For the quieting and keping in obiedince of the disorderit subjectis inhabitantis of the borders hielands and Ilis." This statute disolved the Clan status. [4]

Early references to the name in England include Ailuuardus filius Bell listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 in Suffolk; Hugo Bel who was in Winton, Hampshire in 1148; Serlo Belle listed in the Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire in 1190; as well as Roger del Bel, who was in the Pipe Rolls of Norfolk of 1209. [5]

Robert le Bell was Mayor of Bristol in 1239. The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 had many entries for the name typically with the Old French spelling: Nicholas filius Bele in Bedfordshire; Ralph le Bele in Cambridgeshire; and Hugh le Bel, in Oxfordshire; Thomas le Bel in Suffolk. [6]

Early History of the Bel family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bel research. Another 268 words (19 lines of text) covering the years 1069, 1340, 1350, 1463, 1528, 1587, 1587, 1603, 1896, 1590, 1618, 1577, 1668, 1640, 1648, 1562, 1607, 1647, 1711 and are included under the topic Early Bel History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bel Spelling Variations

Although the name, Bel, appeared in many references, from time to time, the surname was shown with the spellings Bell, Belle and others.

Early Notables of the Bel family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family name during their early history was The Blessed Arthur Bell (1590-1618), also known as Francis Bell, who was a Franciscan and English martyr; Sir Robert Bell (d. 1577) of Beaupre Hall, Norfolk, Speaker of the House of Commons; William Bell (died ca. 1668)...
Another 46 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bel Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bel Ranking

In France, the name Bel is the 1,138th most popular surname with an estimated 4,821 people with that name. [7]

Ireland Migration of the Bel family to Ireland

Some of the Bel family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 83 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Bel migration to the United States +

Gradually becoming disenchanted with life in Ireland many of these uprooted families sailed aboard the armada of sailing ships known as the "White Sails" which plied the stormy Atlantic. These overcrowded ships often arrived with only 60 to 70% of their original passenger list, many dying of cholera, typhoid, dysentery or small pox. In North America, some of the first immigrants who could be considered kinsmen of the Bel family name Bel, or who bore a variation of the surname were

Bel Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Bel, who arrived in Virginia in 1622 [8]
Bel Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Gerquina Bel, aged 30, who landed in New Orleans, La in 1837 [8]
  • Joaquin Bel, who landed in Puerto Rico in 1880 [8]

Contemporary Notables of the name Bel (post 1700) +

  • Clyde F. Bel Sr., American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Louisiana, 1952, 1956, 1960; Candidate for U.S. Representative from Louisiana 2nd District, 1980 [9]
  • Achille Le Bel (1847-1930), French Chemist
  • Barbara Bel Geddes (1922-2005), American Oscar-nominated actress
  • Bel Mooney (b. 1946), English journalist and broadcaster

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  3. Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  4. Fraser, George MacDonald, The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers HarperCollins Publishers, 1972: Print. (ISBN13: 9780002727464)
  5. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  6. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  8. 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)
  9. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, January 29) . Retrieved from on Facebook