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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the English Pitts family come from? What is the English Pitts family crest and coat of arms? When did the Pitts family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Pitts family history?

The distinguished surname Pitts emerged among the industrious people of Flanders, which was an important trading partner and political ally of Britain during the Middle Ages. As a result of the frequent commercial intercourse between the Flemish and English nations, many Flemish migrants settled in Britain. In early times, people were known by only a single name. However, as the population grew and people traveled further afield, it became increasingly necessary to assume an additional name to differentiate between bearers of the same personal name. The manner in which hereditary surnames arose is interesting. Local surnames are derived from where the original bearer lived, was born, or held land. Flemish surnames of this type frequently are prefixed by de la or de le, which mean of the or from the. The Pitts family originally lived in the settlement of Pett in Kent, in the place named Pitt in Hampshire, or in any low-lying area resembling a pit or hollows. The surname Pitts is derived from the Old English words pytt, which means pit. Pitts belongs to both the category of habitation names, which are derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads, or other places, and the class of topographic surnames, which were given to people who resided near physical features such as hills, streams, churches, or types of trees.


Flemish surnames are characterized by a large number of spelling variations. One reason for this is that medieval English lacked definite spelling rules. The spellings of surnames were also influenced by the official court languages, which were French and Latin. Names were rarely spelled consistently in medieval times. Scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to specific spelling rules, and people often had their names registered in several different forms throughout their lives. One of the greatest reasons for change is the linguistic uniqueness of the Flemish settlers in England, who spoke a language closely related to Dutch. The pronunciation and spelling of Flemish names were often altered to suit the tastes of English-speaking people. In many cases, the first, final, or middle syllables of surnames were eliminated. The name has been spelled Pitt, Pit and others.

First found in Devon where they held a family seat from early times. The first record of this family appeared on the early census rolls taken by the Kings of Britain to determine taxation rates for their subjects.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Pitts research. Another 137 words(10 lines of text) covering the years 1804, 1560, 1616, 1559, 1636, 1614, 1625, 1606, 1672, 1654, 1660, 1643, 1624, 1625, 1694, 1660, 1679, 1627, 1686, 1660, 1679, 1680, 1639, 1697, 1653, 1713, 1653 and 1726 are included under the topic Early Pitts History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 319 words(23 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Pitts Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Pitts family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 37 words(3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Discovered in the immigration and passenger lists were a number of people bearing the name Pitts:

Pitts Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Francis Pitts, who arrived in Virginia in 1623
  • Edward Pitts, who landed in Virginia in 1628
  • Tho Pitts, aged 24, landed in St Christopher in 1635
  • William Pitts, who arrived in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1638
  • Edmond Pitts, who landed in New England in 1639

Pitts Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Philip Pitts, who landed in Virginia in 1702
  • Rebecca Pitts, who arrived in Virginia in 1713

Pitts Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Robert Pitts, who arrived in New York in 1845
  • Martha Pitts, aged 16, landed in New York in 1864


  • Allen Pitts (b. 1964), American born Canadian football player
  • John Emmett Pitts Jr. (1924-1977), brigadier general in the United States Air Force
  • Riley Leroy Pitts (1937-1967), United States Army Captain, first African American commissioned officer to be awarded the Medal of Honor
  • Leonard Pitts Jr. (b. 1957), American journalist who won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary
  • Elijah Eugene Pitts (1938-1998), American NFL football halfback
  • Curtis Pitts (1916-2005), American designer of aerobatic biplanes, best known for his Pitts Special
  • Byron Pitts (b. 1960), American journalist and author, chief national correspondent for The CBS Evening News
  • Frank H. Pitts (b. 1943), former professional American AFL football wide receiver
  • Helen Pitts (1838-1903), American suffragist, second wife of Frederick Douglass who founded the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association
  • Milton Pitts (1912-1994), White House barber for Republican U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush



  • Memoirs-With Histories of Pound-Murphy-Willingham-Palmer-Pitts Families by Jerome B. Pound.
  • Pitts Family History, 1643-1985 by Josephine Pitts Gambill.
  • Portraits of Eight Generations of the Pitts Family by The Detroit Institute of Arts.

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Per ardua liberi
Motto Translation: Free thro' difficulties.


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  1. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  2. Marcharn, Frederick George. A Constitutional History of Modern England 1485 to the Present. London: Harper and Brothers, 1960. Print.
  3. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  4. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  5. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  6. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  7. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  8. Foster, Joseph. Dictionary of Heraldry Feudal Coats of Arms and Pedigrees. London: Bracken Books, 1989. Print. (ISBN 1-85170-309-8).
  9. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  10. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  11. ...

The Pitts Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Pitts Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 20 September 2014 at 04:32.

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