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2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

My interest in this one name study has two main roots. There is a desire to understand the origin of the surname and establish if possible whether it is predominantly locative. In addition I see it, perhaps selfishly as a possible means of extending my own family tree further back in time than I have so far managed.

Although i have been studying my ancestors for many years this one name study is something new. A project that is only just beginning but which i hope will grow quickly.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have an interest in the name or one of the variations.

Variant names

Surnames with double letters, in this case 'm' and 't', must include variants with one or both e.g. Emett, Emmett, and Emmet at the very least. Since the second vowel can also lead to alternatives such as 'a' and 'i'. There are many options. I am starting with the variants listed in The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland*:

Hemmett, Emett, Emmet, Emmitt, Emmott 

*Hanks, P., Coates, R. and McClure, P. (2016) The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland. Oxford University Press.

Name origin

I was born in West Yorkshire, or the West Riding as it then was (in 1954). To date all the Emmett ancestors (the spelling changes regulalry) that I have identified have also been from this area, and primarily around Bradford. I even came across a public house in Rawdon near Bradford called the Emmott Arms. Later, whilst researching a non-Emmett grandparent I came across a number of Emmott families in the East of Lancashire, around Colne - and another public house called the Emmott Arms in Langshaw Bridge near Colne. Both public houses displayed the Arms of the Emmott family that had an estate near Colne. Prior to this I had thought the surname was associated with a diminutive form of Emma but I now wondered if it was actually locative. I tried counting entries in telephone directories and found that the biggest concentrations in the UK were in the directories for East Lancashire and West Yorkshire. In fact there were more entries in these two directories than in the rest of the country together.

There appear to be three possible derivations, as suggested in The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland (2016):

  1. English: locative name from Emmot (near Colne, Lancs). This seems now to be acknowledged as the main source of the West Riding of Yorkshire and Lancashire name but some of instances may have originated via (2)
  2. English: relationship name from the Middle English female personal name Emmot , which was a common pet name for Emma
  3. English: locative name from Emmett (in Bishop's Tawton, Devon)

I am particularly interested in tracing the movements of Emmett families from the Colne area but also finding out more about the possibility of different origins for the surname.

Historical occurrences of the name

13th Century

The earliest references to the surname seem to be from the Colne area of Lancashire. There is a record in 1296 of Henry de Emot, a vaccary keeper. A vaccary was a cattle farm and this Henry de Emot would have managed it on behalf of the local Lord Henry de Lacy until ownership passed to the Royal House of Lancaster in 1311.

14th Century

In 1310, Robert de Emot is recorded as building a house at Emmott. One source suggests he died the same year. The house, or one on the same spot, seems to have lasted for about 700 years. It was demolished in 1967. The arms of the Emmott family incorporate the heads of three cattle. Whether the surname came from the area or vice versa is unclear.

16th Century

Some online genealogies suggest that the Emmotts may have come over with William the Conqueror. This may be supposition but there does seem to be a Norman connection.

A tax record in 1523 shows two men who are identified as servants to Henry Emott. They are resident at Highweek in Devon.

Also in Devon, in 1525, a Robert Emott is recorded as paying the Alien Poll Tax and identified as Norman. He is resident at Corfe Castle - the village rather than the Castle.

17th Century

In 1671, John and Abraham Emmett emigrated to America. A descendant, William Emmitt, founds Emmitsburg in 1785.

18th and 19th Centuries

Around the turn of the century two Emmetts come to prominence. They are brothers, both committed to Irish independence. Robert Emmett 1778-1803 was an Irish nationalist and Republican, orator and rebel leader. After leading an abortive rebellion against British rule in 1803 he was captured then tried and executed for high treason against the British king. His brother, Thomas Addis Emmet 1764-1827, was an Irish and American lawyer and politician, and the elder brother of Robert. He was a senior member of the revolutionary republican group United Irishmen in the 1790s and New York State Attorney General 1812–1813. Thomas took his family to America and there is a thriving 'clan' of Emmetts that are his descendants.

20th Century

Rowland Emett 1906-1990

English cartoonist


Name frequency

  • Current frequencies: GB 2990, Ireland 240

  • GB frequency 1881: 2482

  • Main GB location 1881: Lancashire and West Riding of Yorkshire

  • Main Irish location 1847–64: Dublin

These figures are taken from The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, details above.