This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 9th September 2002, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

“In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves.”

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called GARRATT?
Variations: in text.

This surname has been asked for by a reader in Bakewell. There are some 30 variations but since there is not sufficient space to discuss them all only some appearing in the local directory can be covered. Corresponding versions are found right across the continent - e.g. Gerhardt (Germany), Giraud (France). All these names, whatever the spelling, are derived from terms which the old Norse Invaders brought with them during their incursions into western Europe and that accounts for their wide distribution. The common unit was "gairu", which means spear or javelin. It was found frequently in old English then for some reason was dropped in preference to "spear". A text dated 1205 first reads: "He held in hys hands a gare", but 70 years later it was re-written using the words "a speare". The old word still survives in terms such as "goad" (a pointed stick used to urge animals forward), and expressions with a pointed or triangular connotation such as in tailoring (Gore - a triangular cutting) or in place-names referring to a triangular piece of land as in Langar, near Nottingham.

The turbulent times of the early middle ages imposed upon men the need to be able to handle weapons. A man who was adept in the use of his spear would be greatly admired and if he had proved his skill in battle by slaying his opponent he would have been dubbed "Gairu-wald". This combines the word for spear with "wald" meaning "power". His name could then be interpreted as "He who is mighty with his spear". It eventually modified into "Gerald". Running alongside this name was another, "Gerard" which combined "gairu" with "hardu" (hard) and, to use a modem idiom, would signify. "He who shoots to kill!" It is interesting to note that if wielded forcibly, spears would break in two. A broken spear was a sign that a man had proved himself in battle and eventually a stylised representation of a broken spear was adopted to form the chevrons on the sleeves of some army uniforms. Both Gerald and Gerard were not only extremely popular names in Britain, even before the conquest, but as far south as Italy it was to be found, and a family of that name there moved into France and then into England and crossed over into Ireland, taking the name FitzGerald. This has become so involved in Irish history that it is often believed to be exclusively Irish. The two personal names "Gerald" and "Gerard" became inextricably confused when they transposed into surnames and they cannot easily be distinguished. In 1511 Oxford University registered one student as "Thomas Garad or Garrarde or Garrett". In 1555 the shoemaker to Princess Elizabeth (later Queen) was named as both Garrett and Garratt in the same set of accounts.

The sources of confusion are first that the letter "l" in some of the forms based upon Gerald has dropped out, making it difficult to differentiate from Gerard. This development can be seen in other surnames such as "Harold" emerging as "Harrod" or in such dialect words as "owd" for "old". Secondly the initial "G-" in both names modulated into "J-". The reason for this (very simply) is that the "jay" sound of "G-" between 1000 to 1600 was often represented by the letter "I-" as, for example "Iesus" (Jesus) and "Iutan" (describing the people called "Jutes"). Because "I" was rather an insignificant character scribes tended to write it with a tail and this evolved into "J". It first appears in 1221 in the case of Adam Jeroldus (Ely). Taking mostly examples from names listed locally, "Garratt" (52 entries) is first recorded under John Garrat in 1553 (Rochester) and as Jarratt in 1597 (Surrey). Families named "Gerrard" (32 entries) can look to an ancestor who took his name from "Gairu-hardu" (ie. The Killer!) and later, "Gerard". The earliest record is for John Gerard (1230: Somerset). The spelling "Jarrold" (1221) predates "Garrod" (1540) but both belong to Suffolk. In Ireland the historical character Maurice Fitzgerald is chronicled roundabout 1169. In Scotland there is a Henry Gerard for 1190. The name is noted as being imported from England and this spelling is apparently the only one prevailing. Although examples are to be found elsewhere, the names of Garrod and Jarrold are strongly represented in East Anglia. The publishers called "Jarrolds" are established in Norwich. But the most distinguished bearer of the name of "Garrett" was Elizabeth, daughter of Newson Garrett of Aldeburgh in Suffolk. She is better known with her married name "Anderson" and she was the first woman doctor in Britain, and incidentally, the first to hold Mayoral Office (Aldeburgh, 1909).

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 9th September 2002.

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