A Genealogy of the Barnum, Barnam and Barnham Family

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A One-Name Study for the BARNUM/BARNHAM Surname



Notes for Nicholas BARNHAM


The Barnum Family quotes The History of County Kent as saying that Sir Nicholas was a Serjeant at Law during the reign of Elizabeth I, but then goes on to state that he must have died before Elizabeth was born. The Genealogical Record of the Barnum Family states that Nicholas, grandson of Sir Nicholas, was a Serjeant at Law. The younger Nicholas was born about 1520 and Elizabeth reigned 1558-1603, so the original statement might have simply mentioned the wrong individual. It's unclear whether this is merely a confusion of generations, or whether both individuals held the office at different times.
The Genealogical Record of the Barnum Family also indicates that the branch of the family headed by Sir Nicholas is probably descended from Sir Walter Barnham, who was Chief Baron of the Exchequer during the reign of Richard II (1377-1399). Information concerning Sir Walter Barnham is included elsewhere in this genealogy. Although there is likely a line of descent from Sir Walter to Sir Nicholas, there are several generations between them for which no documentation has yet been discovered.
When Sir Nicholas Barnham was killed, his son Stephen (1480-1550) was only five years old.
Sir Francis Barnham, M.P. (1576-1646) [grandson of Sir Nicholas] discussed in his journal the origin of the surname Barnham. He stated, "Our Name as we have it by tradition, strengthened with probable circumstances, and some good records (which I have heard some of my friends say they have seene) was first gentilized, or at least advanced, by Sir Walter Barnham, a Baron of the Exchequer in the time of Richard II, and soe continued in a flowrishinge estate (at a place called Barnham in Suffolke not far from Thetford, where divers descents of them lye now buried) till the time of Henry VII, all which I have received from my grandmother, father, and uncles, whoe spake it with much confidence, as being delivered to them, by theire friends of the former age, and the truth of it assured by divers records, however it is not that which I will binde on as an infallible truth, because I my self have not seene that which may soe absolutly assure it, and because I for myne owne parte care not to fetch a pedegree farther then from the certaine memory of a grandfather that was rich and honest, and a father that was vertuous and wise;...."
Here are a few words about the development of the language spoken during the time of Sir Nicholas Barnham: During the 7th and 8th Centuries, Northumbria's culture and language had dominated Britain. The Viking invasions of the 9th Century brought that domination to an end (along with the destruction of Mercia). Only Wessex remained as an independent kingdom. By the 10th Century, the West Saxon dialect had become the official language of Britain. Written Old English is mainly known from that period. It was written in an alphabet called Runic (See: http://www.krysstal.com/writing_runic.html), derived from the Scandinavian languages. The Latin alphabet was brought over from Ireland by Christian missionaries and has remained the writing system for English.
At that time, the vocabulary of Old English consisted of an Anglo Saxon base with borrowed words from the Scandinavian languages (Danish and Norse), and from Latin. Latin contributed English words such as street, kitchen, kettle, cup, cheese, wine, angel, bishop, martyr, candle. The Vikings added many Norse words: sky, egg, cake, skin, leg, window (wind eye), husband, fellow, skill, anger, flat, odd, ugly, get, give, take, raise, call, die, they, their, them. Celtic words also survived, mainly in place and river names (Devon, Dover, Kent, Trent, Severn, Avon, Thames).
Many pairs of English and Norse words coexisted, giving us two words with the same or slightly differing meanings: anger, wrath; ill, sick; raise, rear.
In 1066 the Normans conquered Britain; French became the language of the Norman aristocracy and added more vocabulary to English. More pairs of similar words arose: close, shut; reply, answer; desire, wish.
Because the English underclass cooked for the Norman upper class, the words for most domestic animals are English (ox, cow, calf, sheep, swine, deer) while the words for the meats derived from them are French (beef, veal, mutton, pork, bacon, venison).
The Germanic form of plurals (house, housen; shoe, shoen) was eventually displaced by the French method of making plurals: adding an s (house, houses; shoe, shoes). Only a few words have retained their Germanic plurals: men, oxen, feet, teeth, children.
French also affected spelling - so that the cw sound came to be written as qu (e.g., cween became queen).
It wasn't till the 14th Century that English became dominant in Britain again. In 1399, King Henry IV became the first king of England since the Norman Conquest whose mother tongue was English. By the end of the 14th Century the dialect of London had emerged as the standard dialect of what we now call Middle English, the language in which Chaucer wrote.
The Battle of Bosworth Field was the penultimate battle of the Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the House of Lancaster and the House of York that raged across England in the latter half of the 15th century. Fought on 22 August 1485, the battle was won by the Lancastrians. Their leader Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, became the first English monarch of the Tudor dynasty as a result of his victory and subsequent marriage to a Yorkist princess, Elizabeth of York. Henry and Elizabeth were third cousins; both were great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt. Henry's opponent Richard III, the last king of the House of York, was killed in the battle, along with much of his Household (including Sir Nicholas Barnham and his father) during his fateful charge at Henry Tudor's ranks. Historians consider Bosworth Field to mark the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, making it one of the defining moments of English history.
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