This unusual name is recorded in many spelling forms including Bullard, Ballard, Belward, Bellyard, Bil(l)yard, and Bellard. It is an example of that sizeable group of early surnames that were created from the habitual use of nicknames. These were usually given with reference to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes and moral characteristics, although habits of dress and occupation were also common. In this case, the surname originated as a medieval English nickname for a bald-headed man. The derivation is from the Middle English "bal(le)", used in the transferred sense of a hairless patch on the skull, with the addition of the Angl-Saxon suffix "ard", whose precise translation is uncertain. Early examples of the surname recordings include those of Alured Balard in Essex in 1273 and Geoffrey Bolhard of Warwick in 1275. Later recordings are those of Moyses Billiard, a witness at St Botolphs church, Bishopgate, London, on October 10th 1631, whilst on March 31st 1634, John Bilyard was christened at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney. On July 15th 1635, William Ballard, aged 32 yrs., together with his wife, Elizabeth, aged 26 yrs., and children, Hester and Jo, aged respectively one year and 2 yrs., embarked from London on the ship "James" bound for New England. They were among the earliest recorded namebearers to settle in America. A Coat of Arms granted to the Ballard family is black with a griffin segreant ermine, the Crest being a griffin's head erased ermine. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Peter Ballard, which was dated 1196, in the "Curia Regis Rolls of Northamptonshire", during the reign of King Richard 1st, known as "Richard the Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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