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

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. The Norman Baron de Bernvale accompanied the Conqueror into England in 1066. De Bernvale was related to the Dukes of Brittany. They arrived in Ireland with Strongbow during the Anglo/ Norman invasion and were granted lands by Strongbow in County Meath.


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 and 1842 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
  • 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. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  2. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Old Town Books, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-385-3).
  3. 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.
  4. Read, Charles Anderson. The Cabinet of Irish Literature Selections from the Works of the Chief Poets, Orators and Prose Writers of Ireland 4 Volumes. London: Blackie and Son, 1884. Print.
  5. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  6. Fitzgerald, Thomas W. Ireland and Her People A Library of Irish Biography 5 Volumes. Chicago: Fitzgerald. Print.
  7. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  8. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  9. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  10. Somerset Fry, Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry. A History of Ireland. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993. Print. (ISBN 1-56619-215-3).
  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 1 January 2015 at 16:30.

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