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Barnet and Burnett

Not for the first time have I been asked to comment on the Barnet  / Burnet association


A recent enquirer noticed that on the front page of our website is mentioned variants of the spelling of Burnett include Barnet, and this is supported by a reference on another website to Barnet being a sept of the Burnett clan.  He is interested to establish to any degree at all whether his family names have a link, or he can exclude that possibility from his research.


He had traced his family history back to the early 1500s.  There was the baptism of Walter Burnet on 3.2.1563, then his father Alexander Burnet, and Walter Burnet, the grandfather, all listed on the baptism record.  The baptism was in Perth.

He thought that his family might have been part of the Burnett move to Leys and then may have migrated over the next 200 or 300 years or so to Auchterarder, especially as he had noticed Barnet ecclesiastical records for them, e.g. baptisms, all the way down the east Scottish coast, to  Dundee, Perth and across to Auchterarder although it does seem a rather large distance to have migrated in those times.

The Walter Burnet (or Barnet) baptised in 1563 died in 1617 and on his will of that year he listed that he had been tenant of Woodend Farm, Kincardine, Perthshire which appeared to be owned by the Earl of Montrose,

Eileen Bailey has investigated further but, other than the fact that the two surnames are said to have evolved from “Bernard/Burnard”, she is not able to contribute anything further on a possible direct connection. The statement (on a website?) about Barnet being a “sept” of the “Burnett clan” is a bit misleading. Obviously Burnett is not a clan in the true sense of the definition and so “sept” is not really true either. The only link is the origin of the surnames as above.
In  case of an individual Barnet family, one would have to research back to where it was obvious that the name had changed from Burnet and Barnet was used consistently from that point onward before it could be said that there was a definite link to Burnet. If it was the case, then that Burnet family still might not be directly linked to either the Border Burnets or the Burnetts of Leys!

She adds that  Black’s “Surnames of Scotland”, which is widely regarded as the main reference on the subject, gives Barnet and Burnett as both being originally derived from Barnard but, in the case of Barnet mentions that  it may also derive from the English placename Barnet. Occasionally “Burnet” may be found recorded as individual occurrences in early records as “Barnet” depending on how the local accent sounded to the church officer writing the record! Generally speaking, however, they seem to be two separate surnames and Black treats them as such in Scotland. She not found any direct link between the two in our Burnet(t) family research so far.


I would be pleased to pass on any comments from readers to the enquirer.

The Editor