Recorded in a number of modern spelling forms including Byars, Byers, Byre, Byres, Bier, Biers, and Buyers, this is an English topographical or occupational surname, and one associated with the pre 7th century Viking. It derives from the word "bi or byre", meaning the cattle barn or dairy, and is one of a group of surnames which originate from working or living on a farm. These include Bull, Heffer, Stott, and Palfrey, and all relate to the keeping of livestock, the prime agricultural function of the medieval period. Perhaps not surprisingly given the importance of the occupation, this is one of the earliest of all recorded hereditary surnames, and it is also not surprising that it was in the then cattle breeding regions of East Anglia and the West Country, where originally the surname was most prevalent. There is also a possibility that in some cases the surname may have descended from an Olde English personal name "Bye", of unproven meaning. This is suggested by the recording of Thomas filius Bye of Cambridge, in the Hundred Rolls of the year 1279. Other early examples of the name recording include John Attebey also in the same Hundred Rolls of Cambridge and John Buyres of Somerset in the Subsidy Tax rolls of 1327. The famous portrait painter of the 17th century Nicholas Byer, who died in 1681, was actually born in Norway, although possibly of English parents. The first known recording is believed to be that of Elias de la Byare of Devonshire in the year 1275. This was during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272 -1307.
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