We recently received the following enquiry “We are
Barnett and I would like to know how the variation in spelling came
about and why.”
Eileen Bailey replies as follows:
Burnet(t) and Barnet(t) both originate from Burnard(e). I think that
it is highly likely that the variation in spelling arises from local
dialects depending on where in the country people were living. Taking
into account the fact that names were spelt phonetically, (i.e. as the document scribe or record keeper heard it), it is common with most surnames to find variations in spelling even within baptismal records of one family.
Our theory would be that further south in Britain the pronounciation
was more likely to be Barnet(t) which, further north, in Scotland
would very easily sound like Burnet(t).