Recorded as Bes, Bess, Besse, and diminutives Bessie, Beesey, Bessey, Beazey, patronymics Bessom, Besson, Bison and possibly others, this is an English surname, but one of several possible origins. It may in some instances originate from the female medieval nickname Bess, a short form of Elizabeth, the most popular of all English women's names. In most cases this is unlikely as surnames had already been establish for three centuries when this the name as a personal name reached its height of popularity in the Elizabethan period of 1558 - 1603. Two more likely explanations and both French in origin, are from the word 'bes' meaning a birch wood, or 'besson', a nickname for one of a pair of twin children. The derivation of 'besson' is from the Latin 'bis' meaning twice, and this is a popular French surname. 'Bes' as in a birch wood was a word introduced into England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It would have been given to a person who either lived by a birch wood, or more likely was occupational for a brush and brooms maker. Early examples of the surname recordings include William Bess at St Mildred Poutry on July 20th 1586, and Susanna Bessey who married William Mountford at Charterhouse Chapel, Finsbury, on April 9th 1699.
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