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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: English, German


The name Potter arrived in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is a name for a maker of clay or metal storage vessels [1] which was in turn derived from the Latin word potus, meaning to drink. While this is the traditional understanding of the word, another reference states: "the term meant an apothecary or druggist." [2]

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The surname Potter was first found in various shires and counties throughout Britain. Search for the earliest record of the name revealed Seuard le potter who was listed in 1172 in Lincolnshire. A few years later, Geoffrey Poter was listed in the Curia Regis Rolls of Essex in 1196 and John le Potier was listed in the Pipe Rolls of Essex in 1197. Lambert le Pottur was listed in the Curia Regis Rolls of Essex in 1214. [1] The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 lists Michael le Potere and John le Pottere in London, and Ranulph le Potter in Essex. [3]

Norman surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are largely due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England, as well as the official court languages of Latin and French, also had pronounced influences on the spelling of surnames. Since medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings. The name has been spelled Potter, Pottar, Poter and others.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Potter research. Another 311 words (22 lines of text) covering the years 1204, 1557, 1592, 1664, 1594, 1678, 1614, 1661, 1674 and 1747 are included under the topic Early Potter History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 137 words (10 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Potter Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Potter family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 109 words (8 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Many English families emigrated to North American colonies in order to escape the political chaos in Britain at this time. Unfortunately, many English families made the trip to the New World under extremely harsh conditions. Overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished, and destitute from the long journey across the stormy Atlantic. Despite these hardships, many of the families prospered and went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the United States and Canada. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the name Potter or a variant listed above:

Potter Settlers in United States in the 17th Century


  • Henry Potter, who arrived in Virginia in 1619
  • Ann Potter, who landed in Virginia in 1624-1625
  • Vincent Potter, who settled in New England in 1635
  • William Potter and his wife Francis, who came to Boston in 1635
  • Martha Potter, aged 20, landed in Virginia in 1635


Potter Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • Joseph Potter, who arrived in Virginia in 1702
  • Mary Potter, who arrived in Virginia in 1702
  • Matthew Potter, who landed in Virginia in 1711
  • Robert Potter, his wife and three children, who came to Georgia in 1733
  • Richard Potter, who landed in America in 1760-1763


Potter Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • Robert Potter, aged 24, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Oliver Potter, aged 26, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Johnson Potter, who landed in New York, NY in 1812
  • Henry Potter, who arrived in New York in 1822
  • Philip Potter, who landed in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1827


Potter Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century


  • Edward Potter, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1749-1752
  • Cornelius Potter, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1760
  • Levi Potter, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1760
  • Mr. Robert Potter U.E. who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1784
  • Mr. William Potter U.E. who settled in Eastern District [Cornwall], Ontario c. 1784

Potter Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • William Potter, English convict from Devon, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on October 22nd, 1824, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • John Potter, English convict from Dorset, who was transported aboard the "Argyle" on March 5th, 1831, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Austraila
  • George Potter, English convict from Surrey, who was transported aboard the "Arab" on February 22, 1834, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Austraila
  • Charles Potter arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Rajasthan" in 1838
  • Sarah Potter arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Rajasthan" in 1838


Potter Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • John Potter, aged 25, a shoemaker, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Lord William Bentinck" in 1841
  • E. M. Potter arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ida Zeigler" in 1863
  • A. M. Potter arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ida Zeigler" in 1863
  • Benjamin Potter arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ida Zeigler" in 1863
  • Mary Potter arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ida Zeigler" in 1863


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  • Dean S. Potter (1972-2015), American free climber, alpinist, BASE jumper, BASEliner, and highliner who died during a wingsuit flight in Yosemite
  • Henry Potter (1881-1995), American Olympic sliver medalist for golf at the 1904 games
  • Brigadier-General Waldo Charles Potter (1885-1971), American Chairman of 2nd Section, War Department Manpower Board (1943-1945)
  • Mrs. Lily Alexenia Potter, (née Wilson), aged 56, American First Class passenger from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and survived the sinking escaping in life boat 7
  • John William Potter (1918-2013), United States federal judge
  • William Everett Potter (1905-1988), American Governor of the Panama Canal Zone from 1956 to 1960
  • Nels Potter (1911-1999), American baseball player
  • Van Rensselaer Potter (1911-2001), American biochemist and professor of oncology
  • Mr. Benjamin Potter (d. 1915), English Waiter from Horley, Surrey, England, who worked aboard the RMS Lusitania and died in the sinking
  • Helen Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), English reclusive author and illustrator

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  • Descendants of Deacon Samuel Potter (1671-1756), Connecticut Farms (now Union) N.J. by Helen Potter Alleman.
  • Descendants of Nicholas Potter of Lynn, Massachusetts by Frank Elwood Potter.
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  1. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. ^ 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)
  3. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)

Other References

  1. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  2. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  3. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  4. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of England and Wales. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1971. Print.
  5. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  6. Lennard, Reginald. Rural England 1086-1135 A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959. Print.
  7. MacAulay, Thomas Babington. History of England from the Accession of James the Second 4 volumes. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1879. Print.
  8. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  9. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  10. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  11. ...

The Potter Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Potter 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 9 March 2016 at 15:17.

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