Show ContentsBret History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Bret is a name of ancient Norman origin. It arrived in England with the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Bret family lived in Brittany. The surname Bret is based upon the Old French word Bret, nominally Brito the nominative case of the word Breton which meant a Breton. "The Domesday Book abounds with Brito as a surname. No less than seven persons bearing it were tenants in chief in many counties." [1]

Early Origins of the Bret family

The surname Bret was first found in Somerset at Samford (Sampford) Brett, a village and civil parish which dates back to the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was listed simply as Sanford. [2] By 1306, the village was known as Saunford Bret. [3] This was the lordship of Hugo Brito, (Sir Richard le Breton or Richard de Brito), son of Simon le Bret or Simon Brito, one of the four knights who murdered Saint Thomas Becket (Thomas à Becket) in 1170.

Walter Brit, Brytte or Brithus (fl. 1390), "was a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and the reputed author of several works on astronomy and mathematics, as well as of a treatise on surgery. "

"Brit is no doubt identical with the Walter Brute, a layman of the diocese of Hereford, whose trial before Bishop John Trevenant of Hereford in 1391 is related at great length by Foxe (Acts and Monuments, i. 620-54, 8th ed. 1641). Foxe prints the articles of heresy with which Brute was charged, the speech in which he defended himself, and his ultimate submission of his opinions to the determination of the church. " [4]

Over in Dorset in the parish of Holwell, another branch of the family was found. "Here stood the principal lodge of the ancient forest of Blackmore, which William de Bret and his successors held by service as the king's forester in Blackmore; the office became extinct when the district was disafforested." [5]

Early History of the Bret family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bret research. Another 39 words (3 lines of text) covering the years 1300, 1677, 1653, 1560, 1637, 1587, 1674, 1640, 1644, 1667, 1743, 1724, 1309 and 1317 are included under the topic Early Bret History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bret Spelling Variations

Endless spelling variations are a prevailing characteristic of Norman surnames. Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules, and the introduction of Norman French added an unfamiliar ingredient to the English linguistic stew. French and Latin, the languages of the court, also influenced spellings. Finally, Medieval scribes generally spelled words according to how they sounded, so one person was often referred to by different spellings in different documents. The name has been spelled Brett, Britt, Bret, Brit and others.

Early Notables of the Bret family (pre 1700)

Notable of this family during the Middle Ages was Hugo Britt or Brett of Samford; Arthur Brett (d. 1677?), an English poet. He is believed to have been " 'descended of a genteel family.' Having been a scholar of Westminster, he was elected to a studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1653. [4] Richard Brett (1560?-1637), was a learned divine who was descended from a family which had been settled at Whitestanton, Somersetshire, in the time of Henry I. Henry Brett (c.1587-1674), was an English politician who sat...
Another 86 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bret Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bret Ranking

In France, the name Bret is the 834th most popular surname with an estimated 6,145 people with that name. [6]

Ireland Migration of the Bret family to Ireland

Some of the Bret family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 34 words (2 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Bret migration to the United States +

To escape the political and religious persecution within England at the time, many English families left for the various British colonies abroad. The voyage was extremely difficult, though, and the cramped, dank ships caused many to arrive in the New World diseased and starving. But for those who made it, the trip was most often worth it. Many of the families who arrived went on to make valuable contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. An inquiry into the early roots of North American families reveals a number of immigrants bearing the name Bret or a variant listed above:

Bret Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Alfonso. Bret, who landed in America in 1890 [7]

Contemporary Notables of the name Bret (post 1700) +

  • Anthony Bret (b. 1972), American television actor, and comic
  • Ernst Bret, American stand-up comedian
  • Iwan Bret (b. 1982), American voice actor and an illustrator
  • Cardin Le Bret (1558-1655), French jurist
  • David Bret (b. 1954), French-born British author of showbiz biographies
  • Patrice Bret (b. 1971), French ski mountaineer
  • Barry Bret Helton (b. 1965), former American college and NFL football player for the San Francisco 49ers (1988–1990) and the Los Angeles Rams (1991)
  • Frank Bret Thorn, American Republican politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Erie County 9th District, 1908-12, 1914-15 [8]
  • Francis Bret Harte (1836-1902), American author and poet, best remembered for his accounts of pioneering life in California. In 1987 he appeared on a $5 U.S. Postage stamp, as part of the "Great Americans" Series of issues
  • Louis Bret Hart (1869-1939), American Republican politician, Erie County Surrogate, 1905-39; Delegate to New York convention to ratify 21st amendment, 1933 [9]

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  3. Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  4. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  5. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  7. 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)
  8. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, August 18) . Retrieved from
  9. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 21) . Retrieved from on Facebook