What kind of a name is that?

The Beach in Barbados aka Heaven on Earth

I have a very unusual last name. Unusual, at least, for my country. People are always asking me where it’s from.

When I last searched Canada 411 for Bynoe, I got only six pages of results. That’s about 60 listed Bynoes in a country of 34 million or 0.00017 % of the population and most of them live in Ontario.

Bynoe, pronounced By-no or Buy-NO, may not be very common in Canada but it is in Barbados. Barbados, for those of you that don’t know, is basically heaven on earth – an island in the Caribbean. When I was in Barbados, that one glorious time,  my family got local discounts when we went to touristy places.

Why the local discount, my father asked. We certainly didn’t look, let alone sound, like we were from the area. ‘Your name,’ they said, looking at our reservation, ‘you are family.’

If I do a search for Bynoe in the Bajan phone book I get 198 pages of listings with 20 names per page. That’s over 3900 Bynoes on an island with only 280,000 people – that’s 1.5% of the population!

I know, you’re probably looking at my photo now and thinking, um… girl you don’t look like you’re from the Caribbean. Well, I’m not but that’s where my grandfather was born and raised. He left paradise during WW2 to train in Canada as a pilot for the British army. He met my grandmother at a dance in Toronto and that was pretty much the end of my grandpa’s island days. She must have been something special for him to leave the white beaches, sparkling aqua water and trees with monkeys in them.

Assuming that since I’m a whitey and most of Barbados’ population is of African decent there’s probably a history that I don’t want to know too much about. Barbados was one of England’s first colonies in the tropics and did participate in the slave trade. According to my granddad’s research our family has been on the island for over 400 years going back to the time of colonization. Where the Bynoes were before that is unclear.

My favorite thing that I’ve learned about my last name is that there’s a gecko named after a Dr Benjamin Bynoe who was on one of Darwin’s ships exploring Australia. True Story.

2 thoughts on “What kind of a name is that?

  • V.interesting Sara! Barbados became English/British in the early 1600s. The two big waves of white slaves from the British Isles to the Caribbean were Irish/Scots in the 1650s after the English Civil Wars – Irish and Scottish Highlanders who fought Cromwell & the New Model Army- and after the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688- Irish and Scottish Highlanders who fought William & Mary. So if your ancestors were not on the winning side in the various ‘Wars of the Three Kingdoms’ I guess they came from West-ish Ireland or Northern-ish Scotland.

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