Ballard Genealogy and Heraldry


The Meaning & Origin of the Ballard Surname

Surnames have evolved from various sources and prior to the late middle ages it was not unusual for one person to be known by several "surnames" during their lifetime. The most well known sources for surnames are patronymic, place name, occupation & nickname.

The surname Ballard is not common in England, H.B.Guppy in his book "The Homes of Family Names in Great Britain" published in 1890 by Harrison says that it is most common in Hereford and Kent where it still only accounted for 7% of the population of those counties. Research conducted in 1993 showed that Ballards accounted for 1 in 7,500 of the population of the UK with Worcestershire, Sussex, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Kent, Buckinghamshire & Hertfordshire showing the greatest "density".

The first known reference to a Ballard in official sources is in 1196 and refers to Peter Ballard who is mentioned in the Curia Regis rolls for Northamptonshire. The second reference is in 1210 for Adam Ballard who also appears in the Curia Regis rolls, this time for Cambridgeshire. England, however, is not the only country in which there were Ballards from an early date. From at least the late 13th century, when Jean Ballard is recorded as working on the stained glass windows of Chartres Cathedral, Ballard has been a surname in France. Prior to this there is reference in the English State Papers to the Ballardi of Lucca, merchants of immense wealth who even lent money to King Edward III. This adds another dimension to the question we all ask ... "What does the surname mean ?".

Traditional sources state that Ballard is a Middle English nickname meaning "Bald head" and indeed Whycliff is quoted using the expression Ballarde when referring to a bald headed man. This then assumes an English origin, but what of the French ? The possibility exists that the name arrives in France from an early English migration and certainly the earliest known reference in France compared to England would support this. Alternatively it may be that the reverse happened and that so far we have just failed to identify an early French reference to support this. Alternatively both French and English occurrences arise through a migration from Italy!

If the surname is of French origin what might that be? Baring-Gould, in 1910, put forward the proposition that the name "Bee" (indicating a bee-keeper) was comparatively unusual and less used than the number of bee-keepers might suggest. He went on to speculate that the names Able and Abeillard were derived form the French arbeille for bee and that Ballard was a further derivation of Abeillard.

Finally there is the possibility that the names originated independently in separate countries, from separate sources and that they resulted in the same modern spelling of Ballard. Quite a coincidence!

© 1999 - 2014 Paul J Ballard

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