This interesting and long-established surname is of early medieval Germanic origin, and is a patronymic form of the Old German male given name "Bernhard", a compound of the elements "ber(n)", bear, and "hard", brave, hardy, strong. The cult of St. Bernard of Menthon, patron saint of mountaineers, accounts for the frequency of the name in Alpine regions, and during the 13th and 14th Centuries Bernard vied with Arnold (from the German elements "arn", eagle, and "wald", rule), as the most popular given name in Holland and northern Germany.One Cuonrad filius (son of) Bernhardi was noted in medieval records of Speyer, Germany, dated 1223, and the name "Berend" was recorded in documents pertaining to Stralsunder Stadtbuch, circa 1300. In the modern idiom the patronymic forms of the name are: Baren(d)ts(en), Behrends(en), Ber(e)ns, Bernhardi (Latinized) and Behrens. Recordings of the surname from German Church Registers include the marriage of Anna Behrens to Joannes Winchess at Heinsberg, Rheinland, on November 5th 1641. Twenty-five people bearing the name Behrens appear on a list of German emigrants bound from Bremen to New York (1863 - 1867), among them Meta Behrens, aged 18 yrs., of Hannover, who arrived at New York on December 8th 1865. A Coat of Arms granted to the family is recorded heraldically in Rietstap's "Armorial General", and depicts, on a silver shield, a black bear rampant against the trunk (sinister side) of a green tree. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hinrik Berndes (Behrens), which was dated 1387, in "Early Medieval Records of Greifswald", Germany, during the reign of Wenceslas of Bohemia, 1378 - 1400. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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