This ancient surname is arguably of pre 7th century German and French origins. Recorded in over two hundred spellings and found in its different forms throughout Europe, it derives from either of the popular personal names Gerard or Gerald. "Gerard" comprises the elements "gari" meaning a spear, and "hard" - brave, whilst "Gerald" has the same prefix of "gari", but the suffix is from "wald", meaning to rule.This type of compound name with its echoes of tough living and yet compliance with authority, is very typical of the period in history known as "The dark ages" Later after the 11th century there was a revival in Christian belief, and "names" often became biblical, through association with the crusades. The popularity of Gerard and Gerald was such as to ensure their survival into, and beyond the introduction of surnnames in the 12th century. Nobody is quite sure how many surnames emanate from Gerald and Gerard, but the spellings range from Garratt, Gerhard, Garred, and Jarel, Jarerel, and Jarrelt, to Gheraldi, Giraudot, Gilardengo and Gerrelts! Early examples of the spellings include Adam Jerol of the county of Huntingdon in the year 1221, Henry Jerard in the county of Essex in 1284, and in Germany, Burkhart Gerhart, given as being a burgher of the town of Heilbronn, in the year 1293. The first recorded spelling of the family name anywhere in the world is believed to be that of Robertus Geraldi in the Domesday Book for Hampshire in the yeay 1086. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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