Show ContentsBissett History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

One of the most common classes of Scottish surnames is the patronymic surname, which arose out of the vernacular and religious naming traditions. The vernacular or regional naming tradition is the oldest and most pervasive type of patronymic surname. According to this custom, names were originally composed of vocabulary elements from the local language. Patronymic surnames of this type were usually derived from the personal name of the original bearer's father. The surname Bissett is derived from the name "Byset or Bisset, a baronial name well known both in England and Normandy, and though not written in Domesday, to be met with as early as the reign of Henry I. William Biset, in 1130, held lands in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire." [1]

"Sir Thomas Gray in his Scalacronica states that William the Lion in 1174, on his return from captivity in Falaise and in England, brought back young Englishmen of family to seek their fortune in the Scottish Court; and among these were named the "Biseys". The first of the name recorded in Scotland is Henricus Byset, who witnessed a charter by William the Lion granted before 1198. His son, John Byset, who witnessed a charter by Henry de Graham in 1204, was the individual who obtained from the king the grant of lands in the north." [2]

Early Origins of the Bissett family

The surname Bissett was first found in Ross-shire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Rois) a former county, now part of the Council Areas of Highland and Western Isles in Northern Scotland, which emerged from the Gaelic lordship of the Earl of Ross.

One of the first records of the family was Baldred Bisset or Bissait (fl. 1303), a native of the county of Stirling who became Rector of Kinghorn, in the diocese of St. Andrews. "When in 1300 and 1301 a discussion arose between the pope Boniface VIII, King Edward of England, and the Scottish government, with regard to the independence of Scotland, Bisset was appointed one of the commissioners to the Pope to represent the claims of Scotland. " [3]

Thomas de Bessat witnessed a Paisley charter a. 1204, and in 1224 William Bisseth witnessed confirmation by Alexander II of a yar super Leven. Walter Biset witnessed a charter by Alexander II concerning the levying of tolls at the Cross of Schedenestun (Shettleston) in 1226, and in 1232 Walter Byseth and William Byset witnessed a charter by Alexander II to Gylandris MacLod in Brechin. [2]

"In 1242 the power of the Bissets was brought to a sudden end, though they still continued to be a family of importance. At a tournament held at Haddington in that year Walter Byset, lord of Aboyne, was worsted by the young earl of Atholl. In revenge Byset is stated to have burned the house in which the earl slept, and the earl with it. For this crime Walter Byset and his nephew, John Byset (founder of the Priory of Beauly in 1231), were exiled the kingdom, their property devolving to others of the family. At the desire of Sir William Byset and to free him of suspicion of guilt, Ralph, bishop of Aberdeen excommunicated those who had partaken of the murder of the earl at Haddington." [2]

Sir William Bisset ( Byset or Bissett), son of Robert Bisset of Upsettlington, was a Scottish knight, Sheriff of Clackmannan (1303-1304), Sheriff of Stirling (1304-1305) and Constable of Stirling Castle (1305-1307.)

Further south in England, Manser or Manasser Bisset, Lord of Kidderminster in Worcestershire, was Sewer to King Stephen, and in 1165 held a fee at Chaucy in the bailifry of Coutances. He was "one of the Witnesses to the Accord made betwixt that King and Henry Duke of Normandy, touching the Succession of the said Henry to the Crown of this Realm." Henry had no heir, and was succeeded by another Henry, his nephew, and then by John Biset, Chief Forester of England under Henry III., mentioned "at the great Tournament held at Northampton in 1241, occasioned by Peter de Savoy, Earl of Richmond, against Earl Roger Bigod." [1]

Early History of the Bissett family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bissett research. Another 138 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1170, 1174, 1198, 1230, 1242, 1279, 1291, 1305, 1362, 1365, 1366, 1395, 1400, 1486, 1568, 1679, 1758, 1771, 1775, 1779, 1782 and 1834 are included under the topic Early Bissett History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bissett Spelling Variations

Scottish surnames are distinguished by a multitude of spelling variations because, over the centuries, the names were frequently translated into and from Gaelic. Furthermore, the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent because medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules. The different versions of a surname, such as the inclusion of the patronymic prefix "Mac", frequently indicated a religious or Clan affiliation or even a division of the family. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into Scotland, accelerating accentuating the alterations to various surnames. The name Bissett has also been spelled Bissett, Bisset, Bisside, Bisseth, Bizet, Biseth and others.

Early Notables of the Bissett family

Notable among the family at this time was

  • Alexander Bissett of East Calder, was banished to the Carolinas in 1679

Bissett Ranking

In the United States, the name Bissett is the 12,893rd most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [4]

Ireland Migration of the Bissett family to Ireland

Some of the Bissett family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 118 words (8 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Bissett migration to the United States +

Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name Bissett, or a variant listed above:

Bissett Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • George Bissett, who landed in America in 1786 [5]
Bissett Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James George Bissett, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1845 [5]

Canada Bissett migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Bissett Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Rev. George Bissett U.E. born in Newport, Rhode Island, USA from New York, USA who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1783 was the Rector for Trinity Church, New York [6]

Australia Bissett migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Bissett Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Thomas Bissett, (Bisex), British Convict who was convicted in Middlesex, England for life, transported aboard the "Coromandel" on 4th December 1803, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • Mrs. Susan Bissett, (Martin, Perkin, Parkin), (b. 1780), aged 54, English midwife who was convicted in Devon, England for 7 years for receiving stolen goods, transported aboard the "Edward" on 23rd April 1834, arriving in Tasmania, (Van Diemen's Land), listed as having 3 children [8]

New Zealand Bissett migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Bissett Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Alexander Bissett, British settler travelling from London via Cobh aboard the ship "Sir George Pollock" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 5th September 1859 [9]
  • Mr. John Bissett, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Robert Henderson" arriving in Bluff, Southland, South Island, New Zealand on 18th November 1863 [9]
  • Mrs. Bissett, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow with 3 children aboard the ship "Peter Denny" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 3rd September 1873 [9]

Contemporary Notables of the name Bissett (post 1700) +

  • Josie Bissett (b. 1970), stage name of Jolyn Christine Heutmaker, an American actress, known for her role as Jane Mancini on the television series Melrose Place (1992–1999)
  • Phillip Douglas "Phil" Bissett (b. 1956), American politician, Member of the Maryland House of Delegates (1991-1999)
  • Alan Bissett (b. 1975), Scottish novelist and educator
  • William Davidson Bissett (1893-1971), Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross for deeds in WWI, who later achieved the rank of major
  • William Bissett (1758-1834), English Anglican bishop in the Church of Ireland, the last Bishop of Raphoe
  • George Finlay Bissett (1905-1965), South African cricketer who played in four Test matches in the 1927-28 season
  • David Bissett (b. 1954), Canadian gold and two-time silver medalist field hockey player
  • David Bissett (b. 1979), Canadian silver and bronze medalist bobsledder from Lethbridge, Alberta
  • Bill Bissett (b. 1939), Canadian poet, winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (1993)

Pan Am Flight 103 (Lockerbie)
  • Kenneth John Bissett (1967-1988), American Student from Hartsdale, New York, America, who flew aboard the Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to Detroit, known as the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 and died [10]

The Bissett Motto +

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: Reviresco
Motto Translation: I flourish again.

  1. Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 1 of 3
  2. Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  3. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  4. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  5. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  6. Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  7. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 22nd March 2021). Retrieved from
  8. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th January 2022). Retrieved from
  9. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  10. Pan Am Flight 103's victims: A list of those killed 25 years ago | (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from on Facebook