Show ContentsHalf History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the Half family arrived in England following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The name Half came from the Old English personal name Helps, which is thought to be a shortened form of a longer name such as Helpric, or some other name with the first element help, meaning aid or assist. It is also possible that the name is of metronymic descent and derives from the Old Norse female personal name Hialp. [1]

Evidence for both of these theories exists, but time has confused the two derivations and etymologists now disagree on which is appropriate in any given instance.

Early Origins of the Half family

The surname Half was first found in Lincolnshire where Helpe Arbalistarius was the first recording in the Pipe Rolls of 1181. Walter Help was later listed in Northumberland in 1230. Over one hundred years later, Gilbert Helpe was listed in the Subsidy Rolls for Suffol in 1327. [1]

Interestingly, the same author notes that Simon Helpusgod who was listed in the Subsidy Rolls for Sussex in 1296, presumably derived his name from 'may God help us." [1]

Turning back the clock for a moment, one author presumes that name was actually Norman as he notes that the Magni Rotuli Scaccarii Normanniae lists Hugo de Helpe, Normandy, 1180-95. [2]

Early History of the Half family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Half research. Another 57 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Half History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Half Spelling Variations

Multitudes of spelling variations are a hallmark of Anglo Norman names. Most of these names evolved in the 11th and 12th century, in the time after the Normans introduced their own Norman French language into a country where Old and Middle English had no spelling rules and the languages of the court were French and Latin. To make matters worse, medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, so names frequently appeared differently in the various documents in which they were recorded. The name was spelled Helps, Help and others.

Early Notables of the Half family (pre 1700)

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

Migration of the Half family

Because of this political and religious unrest within English society, many people decided to immigrate to the colonies. Families left for Ireland, North America, and Australia in enormous numbers, traveling at high cost in extremely inhospitable conditions. The New World in particular was a desirable destination, but the long voyage caused many to arrive sick and starving. Those who made it, though, were welcomed by opportunities far greater than they had known at home in England. Many of these families went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name Half or a variant listed above: Jacob Helps settled in Philadelphia in 1753; Alexander Helps settled in Passamaquodey in Maine in 1823.

The Half 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: Auxilia auxilliis
Motto Translation: Assistance to help

  1. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  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) on Facebook