Bell


Select Bell Surname Genealogy

The surname Bell appears to have originated in Scotland and northern England.  It could be a nickname from the Old French beu or bel, meaning "handsome."

Alternatively, the name could have come from the Middle English belle or "bell," and denote either an occupation, a bell-ringer or a bell-maker, or a location, one who lived by the bell (as attested in 14th century forms such as John atte Belle).

Select Bell Resources on The Internet

England.  A Bell family from Kingsnorton in Worcestershire was said to have been in the 1300’s de Belne, later shortened to Belle and Bell.  Thomas Bell was a cap manufacturer in Gloucester in the early 1500’s.  Robert Bell was an Elizabethan politician who lived at Beaupre Hall in Norfolk.  His descendants included Philip Bell, Governor of Providence (Rhode Island) and Barbados, and several early settlers of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.

Most Bells in England, however, were to be found on the borders with Scotland and in the northern counties.  Their numbers included:
  • the Bells of Sowerby and Thirsk in Yorkshire, dating back to the early 17th century.
  • the Bells of Portington Hall near Goole, dating back to the late 18th century.  Henry Bell was a friend and supporter of John Wesley.
  • Matthew Bell, a successful merchant in Newcastle in the early 1700's who bought Woolsington Hall on the proceeds.
  • and Lowthian Bell, a Victorian ironmaster, who was twice Lord Mayor of Newcastle in the 1870's.
A Bell family of farmers at Wark on Tyne began with the marriage of Jacob Bell and Ann Rutter in 1800.

Scotland.
  The Bell clan
in Dumfriesshire at Middlebie was a significant presence on the Scottish Borders.  An old Scots saying ran "as numerous as the Bells of Middlebie."  It was said that these Bells “used to number their horses in the hundreds and their cattle and sheep in the thousands.”  It was also said:

“The Bells, being valiant men, were always sent upon the most hazardous enterprises when sometimes much blood was shed and great booty carried off.”

The Bell clan faded away in the early 17th century as the Border region was pacified.  Their last chief William Bell, known as Redcloak of Blackethouse, died in 1628.  One group of Bells moved to Glasgow and then onto Argyll and Islay on the Western Isles.  Others migrated to Ulster.  Some found their way along the Tyne valley and settled in Northumberland.

There were Bells elsewhere in Scotland.  The name, possibly derived from the Gaelic maol or "bald,” was found as early as 1263 at Dunkeld in Perthshire.  Bell had a later connection with the MacMillan clan.  In the 1700’s the Bell name was adopted by many McIlvoyles around Inverary in Argyllshire. 

Ireland
.  English Bells were at Streamstown in county Mayo from the 17th century onwards after a grant of land for their support of the Royalist cause.  Scots Bells during the Ulster plantation period had come initially to Tyrone and then to Antrim and Belfast where they are mainly to be found today.  Many Scots Irish Bells departed for America in the mid-18th century. 

America.
  Bells from Norfolk were among the early arrivals in Jamestown.  Robert Bell was an agent in London of the Virginia Company sponsoring early settlers.  Henry Bell, aged seventeen, was in Virginia as early as 1608, but did not stay.  Robert and Thomas Bell came later and they were the forebears of the Accomack and Northampton Bells.  Scots Bells started arriving in Virginia from 1642.  From the Bells of Orange county came Peter Bell, the Governor of Texas in 1849.

Scots Irish Bell arrivals have included:
  • John Bell from county Antrim who came in 1720 and settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire.  His grandson Samuel became Governor of New Hampshire in 1819.
  • Matthew and William Bell who were among the early settlers ofAugusta county, Virginia in the 1740's.  They were the sons of immigrant Joseph Bell.  William Bell, an early settler in Texas, was a descendant.
  • while Robert Bell from Tyrone was one of the first settlers at Rosslyn in the Chartiers valley of Virginia in the 1760’s.  Son James, aged 13, was captured by Indians and held for four years.  He later served in the Revolutionary War and lived to be 96.
The early Bells into New England were English, such as Francis and Rebecca Bell from Yorkshire who were among the first settlers of Stamford, Connecticut in 1640.  The Bell family remained in Stamford until the 19th century. 

Isaac Bell of this family, a shipping merchant in New York, was on the wrong side in the Revolutionary War and departed with his family for New Brunswick in Canada in 1783.  But his son Isaac, born in Stamford, returned a decade later to develop his own shipping business.  A third Isaac Bell was a successful investor and in 1883 built the Isaac Bell House, one of the famous Gilded Age “cottages” in Newport, Rhode Island.


Canada
.  In 1870 the Bell family departed Edinburgh for Canada where they purchased a farm near Brantford, Ontario.  Included in their number was 23 year old Alexander Graham Bell who within five years had patented a device that was to revolutionize the world, the telephone
.

Select Bell Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


Select Bell Names

William Bell, called Redcloak, was the last of the Bell border clan chiefs. 
Henry Bell was the Scotch engineer who pioneered the development of the steamship and introduced the first steamship service from Glasgow in 1812. 
Alexander Graham Bell was the famed inventor of the telephone who set up the Bell Telephone Company in 1877).  He was born in Scotland and had immigrated to Canada, aged 23, in 1870.
Manga Bell was a Duala king who led the resistance to German rule in the Cameroon in the 1910's.
Gertrude Bell was a writer, traveller and early administator in Arabia.  She and T.E. Lawrence were the leading English Arabists of their day.
Vanessa Bell was one of the leading lights of the Bloomsbury group.
Glen Bell founded the Taco Bell fast food chain in 1962.

Select Bells Today
  • 105,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lincolnshire)
  • 83,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 62,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Select Surname List


Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Scott
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Thompson
Butler       
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Walker
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 
Sanders
Young

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 500 surnames.

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