Show ContentsBirnewall History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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 Birnewall. 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 Birnewall 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 Birnewall is de Bearnabhal.

Early Origins of the Birnewall family

The surname Birnewall was 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 County Cork, previously to the landing of his chief, Earl Strongbow, in Leinster. Sir Michael is mentioned in the records of the Tower of London, as one of the leading captains in the enterprise; and in the reigns of Henry II. and Richard I. he was Lord, by tenure, of Beerhaven and Bantry. " [2]

"The Barons Trimleston, like the Viscounts Kingsland, descend from the De Bernevals of Brittany. Sir Christopher Barnewall of Crickstown, in the county of Meath, was Chief Justice of the King's Bench in Ireland in 1445-1446. After the subjection of Ireland in the time of Henry II, Michael de Berneval, who served under Strongbow, obtained large grants of land at Beerhaven, county Cork, of which the O'Sullivans had been dispossessed. Here the Bernevals flourished in great prosperity until the reign of John, when the Irish rose against them, and destroyed every member of the family but one, who happened to be in London learning the law. The latter, returning to Ireland, was settled at Drumnagh, near Dublin, where his posterity remained until the reign of James I. " [3]

Early History of the Birnewall family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Birnewall research. Another 72 words (5 lines of text) covering the years 1465, 1470, 1500, 1522, 1534, 1538, 1550, 1552, 1560, 1575, 1592, 1622, 1640, 1646, 1663, 1704, 1779 and 1842 are included under the topic Early Birnewall History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Birnewall Spelling Variations

Church officials and medieval scribes often spelled early surnames as they sounded. This practice often resulted in many spelling variations of even a single name. Early versions of the name Birnewall included: Barnewall, Barnwall, Barnwill, Barnewill, Barnewell, Barnewelle, Barnwelle, Barnwell, Bernwell, Barneville and many more.

Early Notables of the Birnewall family

Notable amongst the family up to this time was Sir Nicholas Barnewall (died after 1465), an Irish judge and landowner who held office as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He was the progenitor of the Barnewall Baronets of Crickstown.John Barnewall, 3rd Baron Trimleston (1470-1538), was High Chancellor of Ireland; and John Barnewall, was 3rd Baron Trimlestown (1534-1538.)Nicholas Barnewall, 1st Viscount Kingsland (1592-1663), belonged to the family of Barnewall, or De Berneval. [3]Sir Patrick Barnewall or Barnwall (d. 1622), was the eldest son...
Another 82 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Birnewall Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Birnewall family to Ireland

Some of the Birnewall family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 114 words (8 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Birnewall family

Ireland went through one of the most devastating periods in its history with the arrival of the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s. Many also lost their lives from typhus, fever and dysentery. And poverty was the general rule as tenant farmers were often evicted because they could not pay the high rents. Emigration to North America gave hundreds of families a chance at a life where work, freedom, and land ownership were all possible. For those who made the long journey, it meant hope and survival. The Irish emigration to British North America and the United States opened up the gates of industry, commerce, education and the arts. Early immigration and passenger lists have shown many Irish people bearing the name Birnewall: Nicholas Barnwel who settled in Barbados in 1679; John arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1798; Robert settled there in 1831; Thomas landed in New York state in 1823..



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


  1. Lower, 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.
  3. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print


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