Recorded as in England and Scotland as Bess, Besse, Bessey, Biss, Bisset, Bissett, and in France and Belgium as Bes, Bess, Besse, Bex, Bez, with diminutives including Besseau, Besset, Bessey, Bezou, Bezout, and collectives such as Bessiere, Bessire, Besseyre, Bessede, and possibly others such as Bessett, this is usually a surname of French origins. If so it is topogrphical or perhaps locational, and describes a person who lived by a bes, meaning a birch tree or birch wood, or from a village of the same name. According to several authoritive dictionaries of surnames it is from the region known as Provencal, although "bes" ultimately derives from the Roman (Latin) word "bettius". However there is also some confusion in the British Isles and perhaps occasionally on the Continent, with the popular shortform of the famous English female name Elizabeth, of which Bess or Besse were popular nickname forms, or even in some cases the Scottish surname Bisset or Bissett which is also found as Besset and Bessett. It is unclear when the surname was first recorded, but in France where few recordings have survived from before the famous or infamous Revolution of 1792, when most records were burnt. Those that did survive include Jen Besset at Loromontezey, Meurthe-et -Moselle, on December 13th 1592, Antoine Bes, at Montauban, Tarn-et-Garone, on December 22nd 1658, and in England Anne Bess at the church of St Mildred Poultrey, city of London, on March 3rd 1582, and Abraham Bessiere at Threadneedle Street French church, also city of London, on January 17th 1630, and Francis Bessie at St James Dukes Place, Westminster, on November 21st 1682. However the earliest recording of all is believed to be that of Henricus Byset, who witnessed a charter by King William of Scotland, and known as "The lion", in 1193.
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