Recorded as Bearn, Bearne, Bearnes and possibly others, this is a surname of Swiss origins. It is locational and whilst strongly associated with the English West Country was originally from the city of Bearn, now in Switzerland, but in earlier times under French influence. The name is recorded heraldically in Rietstap's Armourial General under the Countes de Bearn, the coat of arms being two red hills on a gold field. The entry into the British Isles was much connected with the famous Huguenot protestant refugees of the 17th century when many fled France to avoid persecution by the Catholics and particularly so after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. In 1846 at the height of the infamous Irish Potato Famine, James Bearne of Cork emigrated to America from Liverpool on the ship "Stephen Whitney" whilst an early recording of the family name is that of Francis Bearne. This was dated 1680, when he was buried on August 19th of that year at the parish of St. James, in the island of Barbados, during the reign of King Charles 11 the Merry Monarch 1660 - 1685. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.