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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2016

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

The surname is one of the Anglo-Norman surnames that came to Ireland in the 12th century. Ireland already had an established system of hereditary surnames, often the two traditions blended together quite well, but the incoming Anglo- Normans also brought with them local surnames, such as Bernal. Local names were taken from the names of a place or a geographical feature where the person lived, held land, or was born, some from places in Normandy, or more typically, from England. Originally, the place names were prefixed by de, which means from in French. This type of prefix was eventually either made a part of the surname if the place name began with a vowel or was eliminated entirely. The Bernal family appears to have originally lived in either of the settlements called Barnwell in the English counties of Cambridge and Northumberland. The Gaelic form of the surname Bernal is de Bearnabhal.


During the Middle Ages, a single person often had their name recorded by church officials and scribes many different ways. Names were typically spelt as they sounded, which resulted in many different spelling variations. The many versions of the name Bernal to have been recorded over the years include: Barnewall, Barnwall, Barnwill, Barnewill, Barnewell, Barnewelle, Barnwelle, Barnwell, Bernwell, Barneville and many more.

First found in County Meath at Crickstown Castle. "De Bernvale, accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066. He came from Lower Brittany, and was allied to the dukes of that province" [1] Another source is more specific: "Sir Michael de Berneval, a scion of the family founded by the Norman knight, joined the English expedition fitted out against Ireland and affected a descent upon Beerhaven in the co. of Cork. " [2]


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bernal research. Another 143 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1646, 1640, 1534, 1538, 1704, 1779, 1779, 1842, 1500, 1552, 1522, 1575, 1592 and 1663 are included under the topic Early Bernal History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 103 words (7 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bernal Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Bernal family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 217 words (16 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Ireland's Great Potato Famine left the country's inhabitants in extreme poverty and starvation. Many families left their homeland for North America for the promise of work, freedom and land ownership. Although the Irish were not free of economic and racial discrimination in North America, they did contribute greatly to the rapid development of bridges, canals, roads, and railways. Eventually, they would be accepted in other areas such as commerce, education, and the arts. An examination of immigration and passenger lists revealed many bearing the name Bernal:

Bernal Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • John Bernal, who arrived in Virginia in 1622

Bernal Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Jose Bernal, who arrived in Puerto Rico in 1802
  • Alonso Bernal, who landed in America in 1811
  • Diego Bernal, who arrived in America in 1813
  • Leonor Bernal, who landed in America in 1816
  • Francisco Bernal, who landed in America in 1826


  • John Desmond Bernal (1901-1971), Irish-born scientist known for pioneering X-ray crystallography
  • Gerardo Bernal, Mexican professional footballer who plays for Murciélagos of Ascenso MX
  • Ricardo Acevedo Bernal, Colombian artist
  • Ishmael Bernal (1938-1996), Filipino filmmaker
  • Gael García Bernal (b. 1978), Mexican film actor


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: Malo mori quam foedari
Motto Translation: I would rather die than be disgraced.


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  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. ^ Burke, John Bernard, The Roll of Battle Abbey. London: Edward Churton, 26, Holles Street, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  2. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  3. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1970. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  4. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  5. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  6. Heraldic Scroll and Map of Family names and Origins of Ireland. Dublin: Mullins. Print.
  7. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  8. McDonnell, Frances. Emigrants from Ireland to America 1735-1743 A Transcription of the report of the Irish House of Commons into Enforced emigration to America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1331-5).
  9. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  10. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  11. ...

The Bernal Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Bernal 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 2 December 2015 at 14:31.

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