This unusual name is of Anglo-Saxon and Old French origin, and is one of the oldest recorded in England appearing in the Domesday Book of 1086 in its Old French (Norman) form of "Hugo a la Barbe", in Hampshire. As a surname it has grown very naturally from a nickname for a wearer of a beard, derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century "beard", and it often appears in early records in a prepositional form, such as Thomas Onelabarbe ("Thomas with the beard", 1280, Somerset). Between the 12th and 16th Centuries it was usual for men to be clean shaven, so the wearer of a beard was conspicuous during the crucial period for surname formation. The name could also be locational from Beard in Derbyshire, which means "(on) the bank or brim". The final "s" in the surname indicates the patronymic form, i.e., "son of Beard". Recordings from London Church Registers include: the christening of John, son of Richard Beard, on April 4th 1578, at St. Mary Woolnoth; the marriage of William Beard and Johane Reve on January 23rd 1590, at St. Gregory by St. Paul's; and the marriage of George Beard and Isabell Deane on November 15th 1598, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney. A Coat of Arms granted to the family is a black shield, on a silver chevron, between ten silver martlets, five ogresses, the Crest being a lion's gamb couped gold, grasping a horse's leg erased above the knees black. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alsi Berd, which was dated 1086, in "Inquests of Ely", Cambridgeshire, during the reign of King William 1, known as "The Conqueror", 1066 - 1086. 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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