Our antecedents in Scotland were named Bell. The Bells were probably members of the Bell Sept of Clan MacMillan. For "Sept" read "portion". The Bells were so prolific that the MacMillans were sometimes known as a Sept of Clan Bell. This was still true in some sections of Argyll as recently as 1976.
There are several versions of the origin of the name "Bell". One is that the progenitors of the line were Druid priests, given to the worship of their sun-god, Bel. Upon the onslaught of Christianity they saw the wisdom of joining up, incognito, instead of being burned at the stake for having politically incorrect beliefs. So they shrugged, took the name of their sun-god, added an "L" to allay suspicion, and started mingling with the MacMillans. Other versions are not nearly so interesting.
Thomas Bell, of Kincaple, Fifeshire, Scotland, married Janet Oliphant, daughter of John Oliphant, during the 6th decade of the 17th century. The birthdate of their first child, Robert, is given in the baptismal records of the Church of St. Andrews as April 28, 1670. Witnesses were Robert Van and John Oliphant.
No church records have been found to identify Thomas Bell's antecedents, but there is material for an interesting speculation involving one Ninian Bell, who was born in 1625 in Largo, Fifeshire, Scotland, to Dr. and Mrs. James Bell, prominent Scottish Royalists. As the story goes, Ninian married Elizabeth Gordon and they had a son Thomas, then another, John.
Around that time, Ninian Bell was commissioned Cornet (sic) in a Royalist army raised to resist Cromwell. Ninian was captured at the Battle of Dunbar on September 3, 1650. He was condemned to servitude and shipped to Barbados to serve his term, but by then he had managed to become Ninian Beall (a not-unusual English name pronounced Be-all). A likely reason for him to conceal his roots from his captors would have been to protect his family from recrimination.
Cromwell died in 1658. Charles II ascended the throne in 1660. Ninian was bound over to Richard Hall of Calvert County, Maryland as an indentured servant. He was set free and given 50 acres of land on January 16, 1667. While in Barbados he may have been called Be-all, but from the time he landed in Maryland he was known as ('ea' as in bread) Beall.
One year later he married Ruth Moore and began to prosper mightily. (He ultimately owned, among a lot of other stuff, the land on which the White House stands, also Dunbarton Oaks and the entire city of Georgetown, which was named for George Beall, one of his sons, not for King George.)
When our Robert, son of Thomas, emigrated to Prince George's County, Maryland, he changed his name from Bell to Beall. In Colonial Families Of The United States, Vol.II, p.68, it says that the Robert Beall who married Mary Berry was the grandson of Ninian Beall. In our records it says that the Robert Beall who married Mary Berry around 1695 was the son of Thomas and Janet (Oliphant) Bell of Kincaple, Fifeshire, Scotland. It sounds very much as though we are directly descended from Ninian. Be that as it may, one thing is certain: if it hadn't been for Ninian, we would all have been Bells, just as Alexander Graham insisted. Ruth, Willa, Florence, Elaine, et al would not have had to spend so much time trying to get their husbands to drop the "a" so they could get on with their lives.
Janet Oliphant Bell's father, John Oliphant (Robert Bell's other grandfather), was the son of William and Mary Oliphant. A William Oliphant who may or may not have been that Oliphant was the son of James Oliphant, son of Lawrence Oliphant (1st Lord of Gask), son of Lang Lawrence Oliphant, son of William Oliphant, son of Colin Oliphant, son of John Oliphant, son of Lawrence I, Lord Oliphant, son of Sir John Oliphant, son of Sir William Oliphant, son of Sir John Oliphant, son of Sir Walter Olifard (sic), who began this march of the Oliphants by impregnating, in holy matrimony, Elizabeth Bruce, daughter of Robert I, King of Scotland, 1224-1329. It is believed that from the Oliphants several of us inherited our spelling genes.
Most of the foregoing information, embellished here and there by Sam, is from the 300-page bi-centennial (1976) edition of the late Frederick Carroll Beall's Robert Beall (Bell) "the Scotsman", Immigrant. Carroll was a cousin of ours, descended from Shadrach Beall, brother of our Revolutionary War Sergeant Mannam. The book is out of print, but I have a copy. Bonafide relatives are welcome to borrow and return it and to make copies of the pertinent pages 83 through 99--or any other pages, for that matter.
Next: The Colonial Bealls