Show ContentsOtis History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The distinguished surname Otis emerged among the industrious people of Flanders, which was an important trading partner and political ally of Britain during the Middle Ages. As a result of the frequent commercial intercourse between the Flemish and English nations, many Flemish migrants settled in Britain. In early times, people were known by only a single name. However, as the population grew and people traveled further afield, it became increasingly necessary to assume an additional name to differentiate between bearers of the same personal name. One of the most common classes of surname is the patronymic surname, which was usually derived from the first name of the person's father. Flemish surnames of this type are often characterized by the diminutive suffix -kin, which became very frequent in England during the 14th century. The surname Otis is derived from the Old French personal names Odes, Otes, Odon, and Otton. These are all derived from the Old German names Odo and Otto, which literally mean riches. [1] Occasionally, the name Otis is a local surname derived from the settlement of Ott in Belgium. [2]

Another source claims the name is occupational as in "a nickname for a Dealer in Oats." [3]

Early Origins of the Otis family

The surname Otis was first found in the Domesday Book of 1086 where Ode, Odo, Otho were recorded. [4] Later in Lincolnshire, Radulfus filius Ode was recorded in 1160 and later again, Willelmus filius Ote (Otte) was recorded in the Pipe Rolls for Essex in 1177. In Suffolk, William Ode was registered in the Curia Regis Rolls for 1213. "Belchamp Otton (Essex) owes its attribute (Otes 1254, Oton 1255) to Otlo (temp. Hy 2), descendant of Otto or Odo [4]. " [5]

The Hundredorum Rolls for 1273 included entries as a forename and surname: Hotys de Parme, Lincolnshire; and Andreas Otes, Norfolk as did the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379: Otes de Howorth; and Johannes Oteson

In Ireland, the name is "a synonym by pseudo-translation of Quirke." (GIF)

Early History of the Otis family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Otis research. Another 159 words (11 lines of text) covering the years 1160, 1177, 1213, 1275, 1275, 1649, 1705, 1610, 1683, 1649, 1646, 1649, 1654, 1666, 1674 and 1697 are included under the topic Early Otis History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Otis Spelling Variations

Flemish surnames are characterized by a large number of spelling variations. One reason for this is that medieval English lacked definite spelling rules. The spellings of surnames were also influenced by the official court languages, which were French and Latin. Names were rarely spelled consistently in medieval times. Scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to specific spelling rules, and people often had their names registered in several different forms throughout their lives. One of the greatest reasons for change is the linguistic uniqueness of the Flemish settlers in England, who spoke a language closely related to Dutch. The pronunciation and spelling of Flemish names were often altered to suit the tastes of English-speaking people. In many cases, the first, final, or middle syllables of surnames were eliminated. The name has been spelled Oates, Oats, Otes, Otis, Oaten, Otten, Oadt, Otton, Oton and many more.

Early Notables of the Otis family (pre 1700)

Prominent in the family at this time was Titus Oates (1649-1705) English conspirator and perjurer who fabricated the Popish Plot and was fined for calling the Duke of York (the future James II) a traitor. He was the son of Samuel Oates (1610-1683), rector of Marsham in Norfolk and was born at Oakham in 1649. His father, the descendant of a family of Norwich ribbon-weavers, left the established church, and gained some notoriety as a ‘dipper’ or anabaptist in East Anglia in 1646. In 1649 he appears to have...
Another 88 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Otis Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Otis Ranking

In the United States, the name Otis is the 3,244th most popular surname with an estimated 9,948 people with that name. [6] However, in Quebec, Canada, the name Otis is ranked the 735th most popular surname. [7]

Ireland Migration of the Otis family to Ireland

Some of the Otis family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. More information about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Otis migration to the United States +

The records on immigrants and ships' passengers show a number of people bearing the name Otis:

Otis Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Otis, who arrived in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1635
  • Richard Otis, who landed in New England in 1662 [8]
  • Samuel, Family Otis, who arrived in New Jersey in 1677 [8]
Otis Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Patrick Otis, aged 30, who arrived in New York in 1812 [8]
  • Manuel Otis, aged 30, who landed in New Orleans, La in 1850 [8]
  • J Otis, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1855 [8]
  • W Otis, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1855 [8]
  • John Otis, aged 59, who arrived in Mobile, Ala in 1868 [8]

Canada Otis migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Otis Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Chancy Otis, who arrived in Canada in 1840

Contemporary Notables of the name Otis (post 1700) +

  • Johnny Otis (1921-2012), born Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes, American rhythm and blues musician and impresario, dubbed the "godfather of rhythm and blues"
  • James Otis (1826-1875), mayor of San Francisco, California
  • Samuel Allyne Otis (1740-1814), American politician, 1st Secretary of the United States Senate
  • William Otis (1813-1839), American inventor of the steam shovel which he patented in 1839
  • James Otis Jr. (1725-1783), American revolutionary politician who coined the phrase "Taxation without Representation is Tyranny"
  • James Otis Sr. (1702-1778), American revolutionary politician
  • Harrison Gray Otis (1765-1848), 3rd mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, United States Senator
  • Harrison Gray Otis (1837-1917), president and general manager of the Times-Mirror Company, publisher of the Los Angeles Times
  • General Glenn Kay Otis (b. 1929), U.S. Army general, awarded Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart (2)
  • Elwell Stephen Otis (1838-1909), American general who served in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War
  • ... (Another 3 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Suggested Readings for the name Otis +

  • The Descendants of John Otis and Margaret Downey of Frankfort, Maine by Marian Otis.
  • A Genealogical Memoir of the Descendants of John Otis,1797-1873 of Leyden and Denmark, N.Y. and Related Families by Erwin James Otis.

  1. Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  2. Barber, Henry, British Family Names London: Elliot Stock, 62 Paternoster Row, 1894. Print.
  3. Harrison, Henry, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company, 2013. Print
  4. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  5. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  6. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  7. "The first 1,000 family names by rank, Quebec (in French only)" Institut de la statistique du Quebec,
  8. 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) on Facebook