History of your Surname
Get access to Bell family records.Start a free trial

Bell Family History

Bell Name Meaning

English (northern) and Scottish (Lowlands): from the Middle English personal name Bell. As a man's name this is from Old French beu bel ‘handsome’ which was also used as a nickname. As a female name it represents a short form of Isabel . English (northern) and Scottish (Lowlands): from Middle English belle ‘bell’ (Old English belle) in various applications; most probably a metonymic occupational name for a bell ringer or bell maker or a topographic name for someone living ‘at the bell’ (as attested by 14th-century forms such as John atte Belle). This indicates either residence by an actual bell (e.g. a town's bell in a bell tower centrally placed to summon meetings sound the alarm etc.) or ‘at the sign of the bell’ i.e. a house or inn sign (although surnames derived from house and inn signs are rare in Scots and English). English: from Middle English bel ‘fair fine good’ (Old French bel ‘beautiful fair’). See also Beal German: from Bell in Rhineland or possibly from Belle in Westphalia. Norwegian: habitational name from a farmstead in western Norway named Bell the origin of which is unexplained. Scandinavian: of English or German origin (see above).7: Americanized form of German Böhl or Böll (see Boehle Boll ).8: American shortened and altered form of various Slavic names beginning with Bel- ‘white’ e.g. of Rusyn (from Slovakia) Belejčák a derivative of Belej (see Beley ).9: Americanized form of one or more similar (like-sounding) Jewish surnames.

Source: Dictionary of American Family Names 2nd edition, 2022

Similar surnames: Ball, Beal, Fell, Pell, Bill, Hell, Sell, Ell, Belt, Boll

Search for a relative to learn more about your family history.

Hint: Try searching for a relative alive in 1940.

Black & white image of a young woman scientist

Where is the Bell family from?

You can see how Bell families moved over time by selecting different census years. The Bell family name was found in the USA, the UK, Canada, and Scotland between 1840 and 1920. The most Bell families were found in USA in 1880. In 1891 there were 7,728 Bell families living in Durham. This was about 16% of all the recorded Bell's in United Kingdom. Durham had the highest population of Bell families in 1891.
Use census records and voter lists to see where families with the Bell surname lived. Within census records, you can often find information like name of household members, ages, birthplaces, residences, and occupations.

What did your Bell ancestors do for a living?

In 1939, General Labourer and Unpaid Domestic Duties were the top reported jobs for men and women in the United Kingdom named Bell. 7% of Bell men worked as a General Labourer and 65% of Bell women worked as an Unpaid Domestic Duties. Some less common occupations for Americans named Bell were Bricklayer and Private Means. .

View Census Data for Bell | Data not to scale

*We display top occupations by gender to maintain their historical accuracy during times when men and women often performed different jobs.

Top Male Occupations In 1939

  • General Labourer
  • Farmer
  • Builders Labourer
  • Bricklayer

Top Female Occupations In 1939

  • Unpaid Domestic Duties
  • Unpaid Domestic
  • Housewife
  • Private Means
Black & white image of two construction labourers

What Bell family records will you find?

Census Records

There are 2 million census records available for the last name Bell. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Bell census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

Search Australian census records for Bell

Passenger Lists

There are 291,000 immigration records available for the last name Bell. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in Australia, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

View all Bell immigration records

Draft Cards

There are 334,000 military records available for the last name Bell. For the veterans among your Bell ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

View all Bell military records

You've only scratched the surface of Bell family history

Discover More

What is the average Bell lifespan?

Between 1940 and 2004, in the United States, Bell life expectancy was at its lowest point in 1944, and highest in 2002. The average life expectancy for Bell in 1940 was 48, and 73 in 2004.

View Social Security Death Index (SSDI) for Bell

Discover the unique achievements of ancestors in the Bell family tree

Explore Your Tree

Browse profiles of historical people with the Bell last name

Search for another surname
Enter last name/surname
Start a 14-Day Free Trial