Although this famous surname is of early Anglo-Saxon pre 7th Century origins, its longevity in Ireland is such, and its spread through the country so embracing, that it may also be regarded as Irish in its own right. Found in the spellings of Barnet, Barnett, Barnatt, Burnet, and Burnett, the name is either topographical for one who lived on "land cleared by burning" (Baernet) or is a derivative form of the personal name "Bernhard" meaning "brave-bear". The earliest recordings are those of Brictnod de la Bernet in Sussex, circa 1200, and John Barnet, Bishop of Worcester and Treasurer of All England, who died in 1373. The early recordings in Ireland include Steven Barnatt of Templemore, Derry, christened on May 20th 1660, whilst other recordings include: John Barnett of Macroom, on May 4th 1773; Denis Barnett of Rosscarbery, on November 6th 1864; and Cornelius Barnett, and his wife the former Ellen Hurly, who were witnesses at the christening of their son, John, at Skibbereen, County Cork, on May 2nd 1866. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Jane Barnett, which was dated January 29th 1656, marriage to James Davison, in County Derry, Ulster, Ireland, during the reign of Commonwealth, 1649 - 1659. 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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