Show ContentsMerle History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Merle is a name that first reached England following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Merle family lived in Northumberland. Their name, however, derives from the family's place of residence prior to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Merlai, Normandy. [1]

Early Origins of the Merle family

The surname Merle was first found in Northumberland at Morpeth, a parish and borough.

They descend from the "Barons of Morpeth in Northumberland, where the ruins of their castle still overlook the town. The domain was very large, including many adjacent villages, and 'by the rolls of Henry V. is called the barony of Merlay, which shows that Merlay and Morpeth were places originally distinct from each other, the one denoting the hill and the other the valley: at length the distinctions subsided in the general appellation of Morpeth. King Henry I. gave Julian the daughter of Gospatrick Earl of Dunbar in marriage, with a rich dowry, to Roger de Merley, Baron of Morpeth. This Roger founded Newminster, and was interred therein, with his wife and Osbert their son.' " [2]

Another source confirms this history. "The first certain account preserved of it, is in the grant by the Conqueror of the manor to one of his followers, William de Merlay, whose son Ranulph added largely to his paternal estates by his marriage with Julian, daughter of Cospatrick, Earl of Dunbar; ultimately the family became one of the most powerful in the north of England, and were owners of about a fourth of the county of Northumberland. In 1266, their possessions were vested in two coheiresses, Mary and Isabel, to the elder of whom, wife of William, Baron of Greystock, the manor of Morpeth was allotted." [3]

Ulgham in Northumberland was home to another branch of the family in ancient times. "This place, in the charter of Henry I. granting right of free chase on it to the Merlay family, is called Elchamp: it was formerly, in part, the property of Newminster Abbey; and the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem also held some lands here." [3]

Early History of the Merle family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Merle research. Another 122 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1296 and 1296 are included under the topic Early Merle History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Merle Spelling Variations

It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, Anglo-Norman surnames like Merle are characterized by many spelling variations. Scribes and monks in the Middle Ages spelled names they sounded, so it is common to find several variations that refer to a single person. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages such as Norman French and Latin, even literate people regularly changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Merle include Merlay, Merler, Merle and others.

Early Notables of the Merle family (pre 1700)

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

Merle World Ranking

In the United States, the name Merle is the 18,087th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [4] However, in France, the name Merle is ranked the 322nd most popular surname with an estimated 12,540 people with that name. [5]

United States Merle migration to the United States +

Faced with the chaos present in England at that time, many English families looked towards the open frontiers of the New World with its opportunities to escape oppression and starvation. People migrated to North America, as well as Australia and Ireland in droves, paying exorbitant rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, but those who did see the shores of North America were welcomed with great opportunity. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name Merle, or a variant listed above:

Merle Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Merle, who settled in Virginia in 1636
Merle Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Jean Merle, aged 36, who landed in Louisiana in 1719 [6]
Merle Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • John Merle, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1806 [6]
  • Claude Merle, who settled in New Orleans in 1821
  • Louis Edmund Merle, who arrived in New York in 1823
  • Jean, aged 32, Anne, aged 31, Jean, aged 9, Mary, aged 7, and Joseph Merle, aged 4, who, who settled in America in 1843
  • Lewis Merle, who settled in Philadelphia in 1852
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Merle (post 1700) +

  • Roger Merle, American politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from New Jersey 2nd District, 2002 [7]
  • Lynn Merle, American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from New Jersey, 1980 [7]
  • Robert Merle, Professor of English
  • Pierre Nicolas Merle -Beaulieu, French Brigadier General during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars from 1789 to 1815 [8]
  • Pierre Hugues Victoire Merle, French Divisional General during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars from 1789 to 1815 [8]
  • Robert Merle, French writer
  • Robert Merle, recipient of the Cross of the Combatant (1945), and a professor, Dordogne
  • David Merle Dalby (1950-2002), American football center
  • Doctor Joan Merle WoodBerry AM (d. 2010), Australian author and teacher
  • Alfred Merle Norman (1831-1918), British clergyman, naturalist and marine zoologist

  1. 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)
  2. Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 3 of 3
  3. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  4. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  6. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  7. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 23) . Retrieved from
  8. Generals Who Served in the French Army during the Period 1789-1815. (Retrieved 2015, April 29) Pierre Merle. Retrieved from on Facebook