This ancient, unusual and complex surname, recorded in several forms including Barrable, Barriball, Barribal, Baribal, Barrabeale, Bariball, but perhaps originally Boribal, is apparently medieval English but from the French berry - bal. Well recorded in the West Country, it is almost certainly locational, that is to say a "from" name, and probably derives from a now lost medieval village, of which there are known to be at least five thousand examples in the British Isles. Assuming that it was a place name, and we have no other proven explanations, it would seem to translate as "The castle (berry) on the mound (bal or ball)". Over one thousand such castles including for instance Berry Pomeroy in Torbay, Devonshire, were built in the two centuries after the Norman Conquest of 1066, although only about half are still recognizeable, the remainder have vanished without trace except sometimes a surname. To add to the confusion, whilst the recordings are most numerous in the church registers of Devon and Cornwall, the earliest known recording is from the charters of Oxfordshire as shown below. Whilst this recording would seem to preceed the known West County recordings by some two hundred years, it is equally possible that this landowner lady, originated from the West Country. Examples of early church recordings taken at random include the marriage of Agneta Bariball to Gualterus Bonye at the church of St. Teath in Cornwall, on April 23rd 1567, John Berribal, a christening witness at Buckland Brewer, Devon, on October 1st 1607, and the christening of Anne Barribal, the daughter of Sampson and Elizabeth Barribal, at the church of St. Mary Major, Exeter; on June 9th 1738. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Emma Boribal. This was dated 1273, in the Hundred Rolls of landowners of Oxfordshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, and known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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