Show ContentsPitts History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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. [1]

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.

However, one source notes that the family could have been Norman in origin as the Magni Rotuli Scaccarii Normanniae noted "Richard and Turstin Peet are mentioned 1198. "From the [coat of ] arms the well-known family of Pitt is the same as that of Pet or Pette of Kent and Sussex. " [2]

Early Origins of the Pitts family

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." [3] Thomas Pitt (1653-1726), the famed English merchant and progenitor of the American family of note was born here.

Early History of the Pitts family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Pitts research. Another 69 words (5 lines of text) covering the years 1804, 1560, 1616, 1557, 1634, 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.

Pitts 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 Pitt, Pit and others.

Early Notables of the Pitts family (pre 1700)

Prominent in the family at this time was John Pitts (1560-1616), an English Roman Catholic scholar and writer; Arthur Pits (1557-1634), and English Catholic priest from Iffley; John Pits or Pitseus (1560-1616), English Catholic divine and biographer from Alton, Hampshire; 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, Member of Parliament for Worcestershire in 1654 and for Leominster in 1660; Edward Pitt (died 1643), an English landowner and politician, Member...
Another 95 words (7 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Pitts Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Pitts Ranking

In the United States, the name Pitts is the 502nd most popular surname with an estimated 57,201 people with that name. [4]

Ireland Migration of the Pitts family to Ireland

Some of the Pitts 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 Pitts migration to the United States +

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 [5]
  • Edward Pitts, who landed in Virginia in 1628 [5]
  • William Pitts, who arrived in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1638 [5]
  • Mr. William Pitts, British settler traveling aboard the ship "Dilligent" arriving in Boston, Massachusetts in 1638 [6]
  • Edmond Pitts, who landed in New England in 1639 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Pitts Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Philip Pitts, who landed in Virginia in 1702 [5]
  • Rebecca Pitts, who arrived in Virginia in 1713 [5]
Pitts Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Robert Pitts, who arrived in New York in 1845 [5]
  • Martha Pitts, aged 16, who landed in New York in 1864 [5]

Canada Pitts migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

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 [7]

Australia Pitts migration to Australia +

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

Pitts Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. William Pitts, English convict who was convicted in Warwick, Warwickshire, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Enchantress"on 6th April 1833, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [8]
  • Mary Ann Pitts, English convict from Somerset, who was transported aboard the "Arab" on December 14, 1835, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [9]
  • Mr. John Pitts, British Convict who was convicted in London, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Asiatic" on 26th May 1843, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [10]
  • James Pitts, who arrived in Sydney aboard the ship "Madawaska" in 1849 [11]
  • Mr. Richard Pitts, British Convict who was convicted in London, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Corona" on 13th October 1866, arriving in Western Australia, Australia [12]

New Zealand Pitts 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:

Pitts Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Henry Pitts, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Surat" in 1864
  • Elizabeth Pitts, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Surat" in 1864
  • Charles Pitts, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Surat" in 1864
  • F. William Pitts, aged 28, a carpenter, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Jubilee" in 1873
  • Mr. Thomas Pitts, (b. 1850), aged 24, Australian plasterer from Australia travelling from London aboard the ship "Tweed" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 4th September 1874 [13]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

West Indies Pitts 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. [14]
Pitts Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Mr. Thomas Pitts, aged 24 who arrived in St. Kitts (St Christopher) aboard the ship "Amity" in 1635 [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Pitts (post 1700) +

  • Michael Anthony "Mike" Pitts (1960-2021), American professional football player who was a defensive end in the National Football League (NFL) for twelve seasons during the 1980s and 1990s
  • 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
  • ... (Another 6 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Empress of Ireland
  • Mr. William Henry Pitts, British Assistant Steward from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland (1914) and survived the sinking [15]
Halifax Explosion
  • Mr. George Henry  Pitts (1884-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who survived the Halifax Explosion (1917) but later died due to injuries [16]
HMS Hood
  • Mr. Henry G Pitts (b. 1915), English Ordinary Seaman serving for the Royal Navy from Croydon, Surrey, England, who sailed into battle and died in the HMS Hood sinking [17]
SS Newfoundland
  • Mr. George Pitts, Newfoundlander from New Perlican, who on the 30th March 1914 he was part of the Seal Crew of the "SS Newfoundland" leaving the ship to intercept the Stephano which took him to the hunting grounds, he disembarked to begin sealing, but was caught in a thickening storm, attempting to return to the Newfoundland he and the 132 crew made camp for two days the sealers were stranded on the ice in a blizzard attempting to return to the ship, he survived

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

Suggested Readings for the name Pitts +

  • 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.

  1. Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  2. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  3. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  4. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  5. 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)
  6. Pilgrim Ship's of 1600's. Retrieved October 6th 2021 from
  7. Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  8. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 20th April 2022).
  9. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2015, January 8) Arab voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1835 with 132 passengers. Retrieved from
  10. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th July 2020). Retrieved from
  11. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) "MADAWASKA" 1849. Retrieved from
  12. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 24th March 2021). Retrieved from
  13. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  15. Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 17) . Retrieved from
  16. Halifax Explosion Book of Remembrance | Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. (Retrieved 2014, June 23) . Retrieved from
  17. H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: Crew Information - H.M.S. Hood Rolls of Honour, Men Lost in the Sinking of H.M.S. Hood, 24th May 1941. (Retrieved 2016, July 15) . Retrieved from on Facebook