Bernlay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the bearers of the Bernlay family name are thought have lived in ancient Anglo-Saxon England. They were first found in Lancashire, where they derived their name from the town of Burnley, in the parish of Whalley. The name is generally believed to be derived from "Brun Lea" meaning "meadow by the River Brun." [1]

Early Origins of the Bernlay family

The surname Bernlay was first found in Lancashire, where Burnley dates back to 1122, when a charter granted the church of Burnley to the monks of Pontefract Abbey. The Market Cross, erected in 1295 survives today at Burnley College.

Early History of the Bernlay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bernlay research. Another 229 words (16 lines of text) covering the years 1379, 1500, 1662, 1691 and 1732 are included under the topic Early Bernlay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bernlay Spelling Variations

Until quite recently, the English language has lacked a definite system of spelling rules. Consequently, Anglo-Saxon surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. Changes in Anglo-Saxon names were influenced by the evolution of the English language, as it incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other languages. Although Medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, so it is common to find one person referred to by several different spellings of his surname, even the most literate people varied the spelling of their own names. Variations of the name Bernlay include Burnley, Brunlay, Burnlie, Burnly, Bernley and others.

Early Notables of the Bernlay family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Bernlay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Bernlay family

Searching for a better life, many English families migrated to British colonies. Unfortunately, the majority of them traveled under extremely harsh conditions: overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished, and destitute from the long journey across the ocean. For those families that arrived safely, modest prosperity was attainable, and many went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the new colonies. Research into the origins of individual families in North America revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Bernlay or a variant listed above: Peter Burnley who arrived in Maryland in 1685 and John Burnley who arrived in Philadelphia in 1846.



The Bernlay 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: Pretiumque et causa laboria
Motto Translation: The reward and cause of labour.


  1. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)


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