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2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

This is a study of my husband'€™s surname. When we were married in New Zealand my husband declared he knew very little about his Vernall Family. So I embarked on researching the NZ Vernall families and published a book in 1992. The die was cast and I started to research the English origin of the family who had emigrated from Great Malvern, Worcestershire to NZ in 1880.

The Vernall one name study was registered with the Guild of One Name Studies December 1992. Then it included the variant Vernell but research has shown this name has a Huguenot derivation, so it has since been registered as a separate one name study.

Variant names

Variants €“ Vernal, Vernalls, Vernals, Vearnals, Virnuls

Name origin

An English name recorded in many forms including Farnall, Farnell, Farnhill, Vearnal, Vernall or Vearnals. It may be either a topographical name for residence near a fern covered hill - pre 7th century words €˜fearnall€™ or €˜vearnall€™ meaning fern and €˜hyll€™ meaning hill, or a locational name from any place with a fern covered hill. Places include Farnell (Kent), Farnhill (Yorkshire), Fernhill (Berkshire, Surrey, Worcestershire) or Vernal (Hampshire). The first recorded spelling was Richard de Farenhull in the Curia Regis Rolls of Berkshire€ dated 1214.

Historical occurrences of the name

There are few noteworthy Vernall individuals.

Arthur Humphrey Vernall (1884 -1918) Awarded Military Cross 1917

Augustus Vernall (1841 - 1867) Superintendent coffee plantation Neddicouttam, Madras India. Married and died Madras.

Charles Frederick Vernall (1870 - 1945) Served Boer War with the 3rd Canterbury contingent (NZ) Rough Riders

Charles, Thomas & William Vernall - brothers born Worcester Union Workhouse, child migrants to Canada 1907 - 'Home Children'.

Donald Vernall (1927 - 2003) Assoc. Professor of Medicine, Ohio State University, USA.

Rev. James Vernall (1861-1894) Ordained 1886. Principal of Yoruba Mission, Nigeria. Married daughter of German missionary in Nigeria. Died Nigeria of yellow fever.

John Vernal transported to Australia 1815

Leslie Vernall (1911-1979) Major Burma Rifles, escaped from Japanese. In 1946 changed surname to Vernell by deed poll to reflect Huguenot descent, but in fact descendant of Great Malvern Vernall family some of whom emigrated to NZ.

Richard Vernall transported to USA 1755

Richard John Vernall (1901 -€“ 1956) Hong Kong Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Architect Public Works Hong Kong, Japanese POW.

Robert Vernall - Early settler of Maryland, USA 1679.

Name frequency

In the 1881 census there were 275 individuals (Vernall and variants). The greatest number lived in Herefordshire, followed by London and Worcestershire. The most frequent occurrence was in Herefordshire €“ 0.072% - 7.2 people per 10,000 having the surname, followed by Worcestershire at 0.011%. (Guild Project undertaken by the late Geoff Riggs).

Distribution of the name

According to Public Profiler the top countries are New Zealand, followed by UK, Canada and USA. In the UK the greatest density of the name is in the West Midlands. There are also occurrences in Australia and South Africa.
Earliest recorded occurrence so far found - baptism of John Vernals 20th May 1541 in Munslow, Shropshire. In the early 1600s there were a number of Vernall families living in Puddlestone, Herefordshire and Ripple, Worcestershire.


GRO indexes for England, Wales and overseas
UK probate index – some wills
UK census records 1841 to 1911
Large number of Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire parish records
Herefordshire monumental inscriptions €“ photos from various church graveyards
London Baptisms, marriages, burials (Ancestry)
WW1 medal cards
NZ births, marriages, deaths, cemetery records, electoral rolls
Australia births, marriages, deaths, electoral rolls
British India records (from The British Library)
Some South African records
USA - births, marriages, deaths, censuses
Canada - births, marriages, deaths, censuses