Select Barnes Surname Genealogy

The most obvious source for the surname Barnes is locational, describing someone who lived by a barn.  However, Barnes may have earlier and very different Saxon or Norman origins.  The Saxon word broon, meaning “warrior,” or the Norse personal name bjorn, meaning “bear” or “warrior,” gave rise to early forms of the name such as Barn, Barne, and Berne that were prevalent in pre-Domesday times.  The Barnes surname probably had different origins, depending on where it occurred in England.

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England.  The place-name Barnes near London appeared as Berne in the Domesday Book and gave rise to some early Barnes surnames:

  • John Barnes was a London mercer and Lord Mayor of London in 1371.  This John Barnes “gave a chest with three locks and one thousand marks therein, to be lent to poor young men.”
  • while George Barne was a London haberdasher around the year 1500.  His son George was one of the merchant adventurers of his age and Lord Mayor of London in 1552, as
    was his son George in 1586.

The Barnes name also cropped up at an early time in Essex – at Writtle near Chelmsford and Thoby and also at Barking.  William Barnes of Thoby prospered at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530’s. He held land from Henry VIII in the royal forest of Tillingham on the Essex coast.

Henry Barnes was a cloth-maker in London in the 1700’s whose grandson Thomas Barnes became the editor of The Times in 1817 and established its reputation as a newspaper.  Meanwhile one family history recounts the Barnes who were farm workers near Heckfield in Hampshire in the late 17th century and moved to London in the 1860’s.  By the time of the 1881 English census, an estimated 35% of the Barnes in England was in London and the southeast.

Roughly the same share was to be found in the north, mainly in
Lancashire. Richard Barnes, born at Bold near St. Helens in Lancashire in 1532, became the Anglican bishop of Durham. His sister Catherine married Francis Bold of Bold Hall.  His son Barnabe, a poet, was a contemporary of Shakespeare in

From a later generation came James Rothwell Barnes who was influential in the growth of Farnworth as an industrial town in Lancashire in the 19th century.  He built Farnworth’s first steam weaving mill and in 1832 introduced cotton spinning there.  In the 1881 census the Barnes name was particularly prevalent in Haslingden and in Accrington, towns some 20 miles north of Manchester.

. The Barnes clan in Aberdeenshire derived its name from the Gaelic word bearn meaning “gap.”  The Barnes name also cropped up in Dundee.  Some believed that the Scots Barnes have Viking heritage.

Ireland.  Barnes in Ireland probably came originally from either England or Scotland.  The Barnes name has occurred in Ulster and in Offaly and Waterford.

America.  The earliest Barnes in America were called Thomas Barnes, whether he were Thomas of Hartford, Thomas of New Haven, or Thomas of Hingham, Massachusetts.  Thomas of New Haven who came as a boy has left probably the largest number of Barnes descendants in America.

Meanwhile three Barnes brothers were in Long Island by the late 1640’s.  Joshua Barnes is seen as one of the founders of Southampton, Long Island.  From another line came Richard Barnes, one of the East Greenwich, Connecticut.

Abraham Barnes from Surrey came to America around 1700 and settled in St. Mary’s county, Maryland.  It was said that he brought with him a portrait of Colonel John Barnes of the British army who was probably an ancestor.  His descendants became prominent in Maryland society.  The Barnes home in Leonardtown, now styled Tudor Hall, was completed in 1745.

Their home in Leonardtown, now styled Tudor Hall, was completed in 1745.

Some Scots Irish Barnes were early settlers in Kentucky.  Brinsley Barnes, born in Dublin, was one of the heroes of the Revolutionary War. His descendants through Edward Barnes were to be found in Estill county:

“The defining characteristic of these Barnes has been the ‘Barnes temper.’  This peculiarly Barnes trait, believed to have been inherited through Viking blood, has caused the demise of more than a few family members. The tendency for male members of the clan to ‘die with their boots on’ has continued into the modern era.”

.  J.B. Barnes, according to family lore, came to Newfoundland from Waterford in Ireland in the 1760’s. J.B. Barnes and Company became prominent shipbuilders in St. John’s.  His grandson Richard was active in local politics in the 1840’s, but died at a young age.  William Morris Barnes was a sea captain who later wrote an autobiography entitled When Ships Were Ships.

In 1866 William Barnes ran away from home in Somerset at the age of fourteen and ended up in Newfoundland as a fisherman for Newman and Company at Head Bay d”Espoir.  His descendants held a family reunion there in 2013.

John Barnes was among the Loyalists that had come by ship from New York to Shelburne, Nova Scotia in 1783.  He had been a distiller in Trenton, New Jersey and the last colonial sheriff of Hunterdon county.

Select Barnes Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Barnes Names

Robert Barnes  was a Protestant reformer who was burnt at the stake for his beliefs in 1540.
Thomas Barnes was editor of The Times from 1817 to 1841 and made it a newspaper of repute.
Sydney Barnes from Staffordshire is regarded as one of the best cricket bowlers who has ever lived.
William Barnes joined forces with Clifford Noble in New York in 1917 to start the Barnes & Noble book chain.
Clive Barnes was the renowned theater critic for the New York Times from 1978 until his death in 2008.
John Barnes was a Jamaican-born footballer who played for England in the 1980’s.

Select Barnes Today

  • 64,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 84,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 37,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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