Show ContentsBritten History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Britten was brought to England in the great wave of migration following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Britten family lived in Essex. The name is a reference to the French province of Brettagne or Brittany. Families from this area largely consisted of the descendants of Celtic tribes who were originally forced to flee ancient Britain from the Roman Tyrant, Maximus, around 384 AD, and settled across the Channel. When the Romans left, the settlement remained, and carries the name to this day. From about 950 onwards, the Dukes of Brittany became closely related to the Dukes of Normandy, and even accompanied them at Hastings in 1066. Many of the Brettagne families who were granted land by William, Duke of Normandy had come in a complete circle, settling again on their former homeland in Powys, on the English-Welsh border.

Early Origins of the Britten family

The surname Britten was first found in the Domesday Book of 1086 where "no less than nine of this name appear: all of them probably Breton knights that had followed the fortunes of Alain-le-Roux or his kinsmen. Alured Brito held of the King a barony of twenty-two lordships in Devonshire: Gozelin another in Bucks, Gloucester, and Bedfordshire; Oger one in Leicester and Lincoln; Rainald one in Sussex; Tihel one in Essex and Norfolk; Waldeve one in Lincoln and Cheshire; and Maigno or Manno Brito one in Bucks and Leicestershire. Two others, Roger and William, were mesne-lords in Somerset and Huntingdon." [1]

"The manor of Kenardington [in Kent] formed a portion of the lands assigned by William the Conqueror for the defence of Dover Castle, and came by marriage in the reign of George I. to the Breton family, with whom it has since remained. " [2]

The name occurred many times throughout the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273: John de Brytaygn in Cambridgeshire; Giffard le Bretun in Buckinghamshire; Hugo le Bretun in Suffolk and more. The Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 listed Alicia de Britten; Elias de Britton; and Ricardus Britton. [3]

John le Breton (d. 1275), was Bishop of Hereford and was chosen bishop about Christmas 1268, being then a canon of Hereford, and was consecrated 2 June 1269. For about two years before this he was a justice of the king's court. He died 12 May 1275. [4]

Ranulph Brito or Le Breton (d. 1246), was Canon of St. Paul's and is first mentioned in the year 1221 as a chaplain of Hubert de Burgh. "During the administration of his patron he stood high in the favour of Henry III, and became the king's treasurer. " [4]

William Briton or Breton (d. 1356), was an early English "theologian, described as a Franciscan by all the literary biographers. No fact is known of his life." [4]

Early records of Warwickshire also found the family in the hamlet of Marston. "This place, anciently called Breton's Mannour, was held by Guido Breton in the reign of Henry IV.; the manor has since gone with that of Wolstan." [2]

Early History of the Britten family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Britten research. Another 322 words (23 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1295, 1164, 1273, 1273, 1296, 1275, 1545, 1626, 1499, 1607 and 1618 are included under the topic Early Britten History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Britten 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 Breton, Britain, Britayne, Briton, Brittain, Brittaine, Brittan, Britten, Brittenie, Brittin, Britting, Britton, Brittone, Brettain, Bretaine, Bretayne, Brettin, Bretin, Brettan, Brettinie, Brettony, Brittany, Brettany, Britteny, Brittiny and many more.

Early Notables of the Britten family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was John de Breton (died 1275), medieval Bishop of Hereford, royal justice and sheriff, generally attributed to the term "Britton," the earliest summary of the law of England, written in French; and Nicholas Breton (1545-1626), English poet and novelist, from an old family settled at Layer-Breton, Essex. "His grandfather, William Breton of Colchester, died in 1499, and was buried there in the monastery of St. John. His father, also William Breton, was a younger son, came...
Another 82 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Britten Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Britten Ranking

In the United States, the name Britten is the 11,589th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [5]

Ireland Migration of the Britten family to Ireland

Some of the Britten family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 35 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 Britten 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 Britten or a variant listed above:

Britten Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Jo Britten, aged 18, who arrived in Virginia in 1635 [6]
  • Richard Britten, who arrived in Virginia in 1652 [6]
  • Richard Britten, who landed in Virginia in 1653 [6]
  • Lyonell Britten, who landed in Virginia in 1655 [6]
  • William Britten, who landed in New England in 1678-1679 [6]
Britten Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Jacob Britten, who settled in Philadelphia in 1750
  • Abraham Britten, who was on record in New York in 1776
Britten Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Britten, aged 36, who landed in New York in 1800 [6]
  • Solomon Britten, who landed in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1850 [6]
  • S W Britten, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1850 [6]
  • John Britten, who arrived in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1856 [6]

Canada Britten migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Britten Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Neal Britten, aged 20, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the schooner "Sarah" from Belfast, Ireland

West Indies Britten migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [7]
Britten Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Dennis Britten, aged 20, who arrived in Barbados in 1635 [6]

Contemporary Notables of the name Britten (post 1700) +

  • Roy John Britten (1919-2012), American molecular biologist known for his discovery of repeated DNA sequences in the genomes of eukaryotic organisms
  • Helen Britten, American Primetime Emmy Award nominated set decorator, known for her work on This Is the End (2013), Scream 4 (2011) and Observe and Report (2009)
  • Tony Britten, American film composer, known for his work on RoboCop (1987), She Stoops to Conquer (2008) and In Love with Alma Cogan (2011)
  • Matthew John "Matt" Britten (b. 1985), American actor, known for Hearts Unarmored (2007), Can Openers (2009) and Evan and Gareth Are Trying to Get Laid (2009)
  • Frederick A. Britten (1871-1946), American politician, U.S. Representative from Illinois (1913-1935)
  • Bill Britten, American actor best known for his roles in Fame (1980), Husbands (1970) and Once Again (1987)
  • John R. Britten (b. 1898), American Republican politician, Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney, 1935-39; Mayor of Richmond, Indiana, 1939-44 [8]
  • Gordon W. Britten, American politician, Circuit Judge in Michigan 4th Circuit, 1967-85; Candidate in primary for Judge, Michigan Court of Appeals 2nd District, 1974 [8]
  • Frederick Albert Britten (1871-1946), American Republican politician, U.S. Representative from Illinois 9th District, 1913-35; Defeated, 1934; Delegate to Republican National Convention from Illinois, 1936 [8]
  • Fred E. Britten, American politician, Member of Michigan Prohibition Party State Executive Committee, 1899; Michigan Prohibition Party State Chair, 1899 [8]
  • ... (Another 7 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Empress of Ireland
  • Mr. Joseph Britten (1889-1914), Canadian Third Class Passenger from St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada who was traveling aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking [9]

The Britten 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: Cassis tutissima virtus
Motto Translation: Virtue is the safest helmet.

  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. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  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)
  4. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  5. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  6. 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 2015, December 11) . Retrieved from
  9. Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 16) . Retrieved from on Facebook