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About the study
The surname is my middle name and my mother's maiden name. I started tracing the family in 1967 and have been greatly helped by others researching the same surname.
In Sussex Walter and Grace Paul (nee Mewett) of Punnett's Town did a great deal of research in the 1950s and 1960s, largely from original records.
In Australia Bob (L R) Mewett of Noradjuha, Victoria, was an amazing correspondent. He made contact with all the Mewetts in Australia then wrote to those in England and North America. His archive of letters is an amazing resource for family history written through the 1950s to the 1990s. Bob died in 2003 and his work has been taken over by Darryl Mewett of South Australia. Darryl is also reseraching in any other source that he can get access to in his local area - i.e. anything on the Internet, disc or film!
Many others have been researching their own line, or traced back to a Mewett and I thank all who have contributed to our knowledge of the family history.
Mewett is the spelling that is found most - from the 1500s to today. Variants include Mewet, Mewitt, as well as Muat and Muet in earlier English records. In Scotand Muat is a variant of the surname Mouat.
When it comes to indexes and transcripts Mewett is misspelt in every way imaginable - Hewett, Mennett, and Merrett being common.
There are two possible origins for the surname.
One suggestion is that it is a diminutive from the English name Mew, which is also a surname. References to the surname in the late 13th century in England probably have this source.
The alternative is that the surname is French or Flemish in origin and derives from a nickname. The original word could be moe, meaning lip or seagull; or for the word mute - silent. A coat of arms for Muet from Flanders bears a unicorn - a horse that could not neigh.
The second is the favoured suggestion at present based on distribution of the surname.
The Surname Profiler (http://www.spatial-literacy.org/UCLnames/default.aspx) gives the following counts for the surname in the UK.
In 1881 there were 164 Mewetts in the census, whilst in 1998 there were 263 Mewetts. Despite the increase in numbers, the surname has become relatively less common falling from 14019 to 14063 in rank order. There are between 6 and 7 Mewetts per million of the population.
Distribution of the name
In the late 16th century and early 17th the name is found in Thanet, Kent, and along the south-east Sussex coast in three or more family groups. By 1700 in all but one of these groups the surname was extinct, although descendants continue through female lines.
In 1700 the one family of Mewetts was living in Alfriston, East Sussex. From these all the present day occurances of the surname descend. Most of those with the surname live in the South-East of England: Sussex, Kent, Surrey and London. There are also large numbers of the family in Australia.
We have transcribed the Family Records Centre BMD indexes from 1837 to 1983.
We have a growing collection of certificates and census returns from which it has been possible to connect together most of the people with whom we have corresponded.