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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016


Sommerset is one of the many new names that came to England following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Sommerset family lived in the county of Somerset, to which their name is a reference.

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Anglo-Norman names are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. When the Normans became the ruling people of England in the 11th century, they introduced a new language into a society where the main languages of Old and later Middle English had no definite spelling rules. These languages were more often spoken than written, so they blended freely with one another. Contributing to this mixing of tongues was the fact that medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, ensuring that a person's name would appear differently in nearly every document in which it was recorded. The name has been spelled Somerset, Somersett, Sommerset and others.

First found in Somerset where "this is one of the few instances of a surname having been borrowed from a title. Henry Beaufort, third Duke of Somerset (great-grandson of John of Gaunt), who was beheaded in 1463, for his adherence to the cause of King Henry Vi., left issue a natural son, Sir Charles Somerset, Knight of the Garter. He was elevated to the peerage, and his lineal descendant, Henry Marquis of Worcester, was created Duke of Beaufort in 1682. Thus in the same blood, the surname and the title have changed places, and instead of Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, we have Somerset, Duke of Beaufort." [1] Apart from this ironic twist of fate, we found the following in early rolls: Walter de Sumerset in Lincolnshire in 1206; John de Somersete in 1331 in Wiltshire; and Edmund Somerset in the Subsidy Rolls of Wiltshire in 1545. [2] William de Somersete was listed in the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 in Shropshire. [3]


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Sommerset research. Another 183 words (13 lines of text) covering the years 1463, 1476, 1507, 1601, 1667, 1629, 1700, 1654, 1667, 1660, 1698, 1677, 1679, 1677, 1679, 1629, 1700, 1630 and 1715 are included under the topic Early Sommerset History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 235 words (17 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Sommerset Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Sommerset 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.

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For many English families, the political and religious disarray that plagued their homeland made the frontiers of the New World an attractive prospect. Thousands migrated, aboard cramped disease-ridden ships. They arrived sick, poor, and hungry, but were welcomed in many cases with far greater opportunity than at home in England. Many of these hardy settlers went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations in which they landed. Among early immigrants bearing the name Sommerset or a variant listed above were: Richard Somersett who settled in Jamaica in 1663; William Somerset settled in Virginia in 1684; Robert Somerset arrived in Philadelphia in 1834.

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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: Mutare Vel Timere Sperno
Motto Translation: I scorn to change or fear.

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  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  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)

Other References

  1. Ingram, Rev. James. Translator Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1823. Print.
  2. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  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. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  5. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  6. Crispin, M. Jackson and Leonce Mary. Falaise Roll Recording Prominent Companions of William Duke of Normandy at the Conquest of England. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  7. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  8. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  9. Lennard, Reginald. Rural England 1086-1135 A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959. Print.
  10. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  11. ...

The Sommerset Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Sommerset 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 21 September 2015 at 15:31.

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