This very unusual West Country surname is described by the famous etymologists 'Hanks & Hodges' as having no satisfactory explanation. This may be so, but there are several possibilities and one probability. We believe that the surname derives from the medieval female name 'Barbara' through the short forms of Babb, Babbs and Babbe. The latter form in the French pronunciation of the Middle Ages would be similar to 'Baber, and as 'Barbara' was a baptismal name introduced by the Normans, it seems a reasonable explanation. This is also to some extent confirmed by the (originally) Hampshire name of 'Barb(e)', which is a proven development of 'Barbara'. This surname spelling is recorded as Bernardus Barb of that county as early as the 1086 Domesday Book, a slightly later recording being that of William Barbe of Kent, in the 1229 Patent Rolls of that county. Later recordings include Jone Baber who married Harye Sleye (so much for Middle English spelling) at Bath Abbey, on May 25th 1597, and Joseph Baber of Nailsea, Somerset, a witness there on June 16th 1726. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Baber, which was dated September 19th 1546, who married at Buckland St Mary, Somerset, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as 'Bluff King Hal', 1510 - 1547. 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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