This ancient surname is of German and French pre 7th century origins. 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 it is known to exceed two hundred, and for examples to be found in almost every European country. These spellings range from Garratt, Gerhard, Garred, and Jarrelt, to Gheraldi, Giraudot, Gilardengo and Gerrelts. Early examples include in England, 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 John Gerard, which was dated 1230, in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Somerset, England. This was during the reign of King Henry 111rd, 1216 - 1272. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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