Little History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Although the most natural origin to attribute this name to is of the original bearer's diminutive size, and many genealogists make this error, the name is actually derived from the manor of Liddel, in Cumberland England.

Early Origins of the Little family

The surname Little was first found in Northumberland, where Eadric Litle was listed as on Old English Byname in 972. From this early Saxon entry, we move to Suffolk to find Lefstan Litle listed at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk c. 1095. Later in Sussex, Thomas le Lytle was found in the Subsidy Rolls on 1296. [1]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 had the following entries with older spellings: William le Letle, Oxfordshire; Wiscard Litil, Huntingdonshire; John le Litle, Berkshire; and Julian Litel, Cambridgeshire. All held land in their respective shires at that time. [2]

But Scotland is where the lion's share of the family claim descent. And there, the first record was of John Litill who served on an inquest at Lanark, 1313. An agreement was made between the abbot of Scone and Robertus dictus Lytil in 1332 and in 1351, Martin Litill, who witnessed a charter by William, dominus vallis de Ledell, of the lands of Abirdowyr in Fife is probably Martin Lytill who in 1358 possessed the land of Cardvyn. Nichol Litil was one of the 'borowis for the earl of Douglas's bounds of the West March in 1368 and Adam Lityll was a tenant of the Douglas in the barony of Kilbucho in 1376.

"The Littles occupied the lower part of Upper Eskdale and a portion of Ewesdale, and were recorded in 1587 as one of the unruly clans in the West March." [3]

The Little Clan territory followed the banks of the River Esk and part of Ewarsdale, and their immediate neighbors were the Armstrongs, Elliots and Beatties. Adam Lityll was a tenant of the Douglas Clan in the barony of Kilbucho in 1376. A branch also moved further northward to Aberdeen, but the main branch of the Clan remained around Roxburghshire.

By 1350, they had become an established Clan closely affiliated to the Douglases and their territories were located in the Scottish West Marches, approximately twenty miles due north of Carlisle.

Early History of the Little family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Little research. Another 225 words (16 lines of text) covering the years 1376, 1426, 1448, 1580 and are included under the topic Early Little History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Little Spelling Variations

Medieval Scottish names are rife with spelling variations. This is due to the fact that scribes in that era spelled according to the sound of words, rather than any set of rules. Little has been spelled Little, Littel, Littell and others.

Early Notables of the Little family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Little Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Little World Ranking

In the United States, the name Little is the 226th most popular surname with an estimated 114,402 people with that name. [4] However, in Canada, the name Little is ranked the 381st most popular surname with an estimated 12,157 people with that name. [5] And in Newfoundland, Canada, the name Little is the 476th popular surname with an estimated 99 people with that name. [6] Australia ranks Little as 257th with 13,380 people. [7] New Zealand ranks Little as 248th with 2,412 people. [8] The United Kingdom ranks Little as 302nd with 19,978 people. [9]

Ireland Migration of the Little family to Ireland

Some of the Little family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 75 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Little migration to the United States +

Many Scots were left with few options other than to leave their homeland for the colonies across the Atlantic. Some of these families fought to defend their newfound freedom in the American War of Independence. Others went north to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. The ancestors of all of these families have recently been able to rediscover their roots through Clan societies and other Scottish organizations. Among them:

Little Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Benjamin Little, who arrived in Newbury, Massachusetts in 1630 [10]
  • George Little, who arrived in Newbury, Massachusetts in 1640 [10]
  • Fra Little, who arrived in Virginia in 1650 [10]
  • Anthony and his wife Frances Little, who settled in Virginia in 1650
  • Antho Little, who arrived in Virginia in 1650 [10]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Little Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Abraham Little, who arrived in Virginia in 1701 [10]
  • Cornelius Little, who landed in Virginia in 1702 [10]
  • Jasper Little, who arrived in Virginia in 1704 [10]
  • Edward Little, who landed in New England in 1727 [10]
  • Archibald Little, who arrived in New England in 1731 [10]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Little Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Blakely Little, who landed in New York in 1801 [10]
  • Francis Little, who landed in Maryland in 1803 [10]
  • Jane Little, who landed in America in 1805 [10]
  • James Little, who landed in America in 1805 [10]
  • Archd Little, who landed in America in 1805 [10]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Little Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Mr. Lockhart Little, (b. 1861), aged 42, Cornish miner travelling aboard the ship "Celtic" arriving at Ellis Island, New York on 24th January 1903 en route to Denver, Colorado, USA [11]

Canada Little migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Little Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Otis Little, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1749
  • Otis Little, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Charles Little, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Eliza Little, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Thomas Little, aged 27, who arrived in Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia in 1774
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Little Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Pat Little, who landed in Canada in 1816
  • Robert Little, aged 40, a tailor, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the brig "Silestria" from Belfast, Ireland
  • Owen Little, aged 35, a fisherman, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the brig "Sea Horse" from Galway, Ireland
  • Biddy Little, aged 27, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the brig "Sea Horse" from Galway, Ireland
  • Martin Little, aged 6, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the brig "Sea Horse" from Galway, Ireland
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Little migration to Australia +

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

Little Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Jonathan Little who was convicted in Kent, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Dick" on 2nd October 1820, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [12]
  • Mr. John Little, Scottish Convict who was convicted in Dumfries, Scotland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Caledonia" on 5th July 1820, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [13]
  • Mr. William Little, (b. 1806), aged 26 who was convicted in Somerset, England for life for burglary, transported aboard the "Circassian" on 4th November 1832, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [14]
  • Mr. John Little, Scottish convict who was convicted in Dumfries, Scotland for 14 years, transported aboard the "Henry Tanner" on 27th June 1834, settling in New South Wales, Australia [15]
  • Mary Ann Little, Scottish convict from Aberdeen, who was transported aboard the "Arab" on December 14, 1835, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [16]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Little 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:

Little Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Matthew H. Little, aged 27, a merchant, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "Phoebe" in 1843
  • Robert Little, aged 34, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Shamrock" in 1856
  • Mr. John Little, Scottish settler from Pebbles travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Strathfieldsaye" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 29th April 1858 [17]
  • Mr. James Little, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Sevilla" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 2nd December 1859 [17]
  • Mrs. Little, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Sevilla" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 2nd December 1859 [17]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

West Indies Little 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. [18]
Little Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • John Little, who settled in Barbados in 1654

Contemporary Notables of the name Little (post 1700) +

  • Floyd Douglas Little (1942-2021), American football halfback, known as "The Franchise" inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010
  • Jane Little (1929-2016), born Jane Findley, an American classical double bass player for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
  • Henry F. W. Little (1842-1907), American Civil War Medal of Honor recipient
  • Lewis Henry Little (1817-1862), Confederate brigadier general during the American Civil War
  • David Gene Little (b. 1961), former professional American NFL football tight end
  • Cleavon Jake Little (1939-1992), American Emmy Award winning, BAFTA Award nominated film and theatre actor, best known for his role in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles
  • William Brian Little (1942-2000), American founding partner of Forstmann Little & Company
  • Elizabeth O'Connor "Betty" Little (b. 1940), American politician, New York State Senator
  • Bentley Little (b. 1960), American author of horror novels, recipient of the 1990 Bram Stoker Award
  • Little Ann Little (1910-1981), born Ann L. Rothschild, American voice actress, best known as the voice of Betty Boop
  • ... (Another 28 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Halifax Explosion
  • Mrs. Susan  Little (1862-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [19]
  • Mr. Bernard  Little, Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [19]
  • Mr. Joseph  Little (1901-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [19]
  • Mr. Harold  Little (1904-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [19]
  • Master Clyde  Little (1905-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [19]
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Francis Donald Little (b. 1917), British Marine, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and died in the sinking [20]
RMS Lusitania
  • Mr. George Little, English Second Senior 3rd Engineer from Liverpool, England, who worked aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking [21]
  • Miss Alice Laura Little, American 2nd Class passenger from Brooklyn, New York, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and died in the sinking [22]
  • Mrs. Margaret Little, American 2nd Class passenger from Brooklyn, New York, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and died in the sinking [22]


The Little 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: Magnum in parvo
Motto Translation: Great things in a little


Suggested Readings for the name Little +

  • The Little Family: Ancestors and Descendants of Jonas Little Pioneer Settler to Tennessee by Dessie Little Simmons.
  • A Genealogy [sic] of the Little-Odom Family of Georgia and North Carolina by Lawrence L. Little.

  1. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ 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)
  4. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  5. ^ https://forebears.io/surnames/
  6. ^ The order of Common Surnames in 1955 in Newfoundland retrieved on 20th October 2021 (retrieved from Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland by E.R. Seary corrected edition ISBN 0-7735-1782-0)
  7. ^ https://forebears.io/australia/surnames
  8. ^ https://forebears.io/new-zealand/surnames
  9. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  10. ^ 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)
  11. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 3rd May 2018). Retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/emigration_ellis_island_1892_on.pdf
  12. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 8th July 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/Dick
  13. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/caledonia
  14. ^ Convict Records of Australia (Retrieved 8th February 2021, retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/circassian)
  15. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 7th January 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/henry-tanner
  16. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2015, January 8) Arab voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1835 with 132 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/arab/1835
  17. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  18. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies
  19. ^ Halifax Explosion Book of Remembrance | Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. (Retrieved 2014, June 23) . Retrieved from https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/what-see-do/halifax-explosion/halifax-explosion-book-remembrance
  20. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html
  21. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 7) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/
  22. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 6) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/


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