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An excerpt from archives copyright © 2000 - 2016

The distinguished surname Pitts 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. The manner in which hereditary surnames arose is interesting. Local surnames are derived from where the original bearer lived, was born, or held land. Flemish surnames of this type frequently are prefixed by de la or de le, which mean of the or from the. The Pitts family originally lived in the settlement of Pett in Kent, in the place named Pitt in Hampshire, or in any low-lying area resembling a pit or hollows. The surname Pitts is derived from the Old English words pytt, which means pit. Pitts belongs to both the category of habitation names, which are derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads, or other places, and the class of topographic surnames, which were given to people who resided near physical features such as hills, streams, churches, or types of trees.


The surname Pitts was first found in Dorset at Blandford (Blandford Forum), a parish, in the union of Blandford, hundred of Coombs-Ditch. "The church [of Blandford], with the exception of the tower, was rebuilt in 1711, by Governor Pitt, ancestor of the Earl of Chatham and of Lord Camelford; it is in the Grecian style, and contains the remains of many of the Pitt family." [1]CITATION[CLOSE]
Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
Thomas Pitt (1653-1726), the famed English merchant and progenitor of the family of note was born here.

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 Pitt, Pit and others.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Pitts research. Another 137 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1804, 1560, 1616, 1559, 1636, 1614, 1625, 1606, 1672, 1654, 1660, 1643, 1624, 1625, 1694, 1660, 1679, 1627, 1686, 1660, 1679, 1680, 1639, 1697, 1653, 1713, 1653 and 1726 are included under the topic Early Pitts History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Prominent in the family at this time was John Pitts (1560-1616), an English Roman Catholic scholar and writer; Sir William Pitt (1559-1636), an English courtier and politician, Member of Parliament for Wareham (1614-1625); Sir James Pytts of Kyre, High Sheriff of Worcestershire; and his son, Edward Pytts (1606-1672), an English politician...

Another 117 words (8 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Pitts Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Some of the Pitts family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 37 words (3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Discovered in the immigration and passenger lists were a number of people bearing the name Pitts:

Pitts Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Francis Pitts, who arrived in Virginia in 1623
  • Edward Pitts, who landed in Virginia in 1628
  • Tho Pitts, aged 24, landed in St Christopher in 1635
  • William Pitts, who arrived in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1638
  • Edmond Pitts, who landed in New England in 1639
  • ...

Pitts Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Philip Pitts, who landed in Virginia in 1702
  • Rebecca Pitts, who arrived in Virginia in 1713

Pitts Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Robert Pitts, who arrived in New York in 1845
  • Martha Pitts, aged 16, landed in New York in 1864

Pitts Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Henry Pitts, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Sarah Pitts, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Mr. Peter Pitts U.E. who settled in Bertie Township [Fort Erie], Niagara, Ontario c. 1784 he served in Butler's Rangers, he was a Yeoman

Pitts Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Mary Ann Pitts, English convict from Somerset, who was transported aboard the "Arab" on December 14, 1835, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Austraila
  • James Pitts arrived in Sydney aboard the ship "Madawaska" in 1849

Pitts Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • Henry Pitts arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Surat" in 1864
  • Elizabeth Pitts arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Surat" in 1864
  • Charles Pitts arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Surat" in 1864
  • F. William Pitts, aged 28, a carpenter, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Jubilee" in 1873

  • Milton Pitts (1912-1994), White House barber for Republican U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush
  • Helen Pitts (1838-1903), American suffragist, second wife of Frederick Douglass who founded the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association
  • Frank H. Pitts (b. 1943), former professional American AFL football wide receiver
  • Byron Pitts (b. 1960), American journalist and author, chief national correspondent for The CBS Evening News
  • Curtis Pitts (1916-2005), American designer of aerobatic biplanes, best known for his Pitts Special
  • Elijah Eugene Pitts (1938-1998), American NFL football halfback
  • Leonard Pitts Jr. (b. 1957), American journalist who won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary
  • Allen Pitts (b. 1964), American born Canadian football player
  • Riley Leroy Pitts (1937-1967), United States Army Captain, first African American commissioned officer to be awarded the Medal of Honor
  • John Emmett Pitts Jr. (1924-1977), brigadier general in the United States Air Force
  • ...

Pitts Historic Events

Empress of Ireland

  • Mr. William Henry Pitts, British Assistant Steward from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland and survived the sinking on May 29th 1914

Halifax Explosion

  • Mr. George Henry  Pitts (1884-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who survived the Halifax Explosion on 6th December 1917 but later died due to injuries

HMS Hood

  • Mr. Henry G Pitts (b. 1915), English Ordinary Seaman serving for the Royal Navy from Croydon, Surrey, England, who sailed into battle on the HMS Hood and died on 24th May 1941 in the sinking

  • Memoirs-With Histories of Pound-Murphy-Willingham-Palmer-Pitts Families by Jerome B. Pound.
  • Pitts Family History, 1643-1985 by Josephine Pitts Gambill.
  • Portraits of Eight Generations of the Pitts Family by The Detroit Institute of Arts.

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: Per ardua liberi
Motto Translation: Free thro' difficulties.


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  1. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. Library of Congress. American and English Genealogies in the Library of Congress. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1967. Print.
  2. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  3. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  4. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  5. Marcharn, Frederick George. A Constitutional History of Modern England 1485 to the Present. London: Harper and Brothers, 1960. Print.
  6. MacAulay, Thomas Babington. History of England from the Accession of James the Second 4 volumes. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1879. Print.
  7. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1968. Print.
  8. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  9. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  10. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  11. ...

The Pitts Family Crest was acquired from the archives. The Pitts Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 24 March 2016 at 10:26.

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