Select Abbott Surname Genealogy 

Abbot, from the late Latin abbas meaning “priest,” was the ecclesiastical title for the head of a monastery. Its use as a surname might designate the abbot himself, someone employed in the household or on the lands of an abbot, or might even possibly have been a nickname for a sanctimonious person who acted like an abbot.

Abbot or Abbott?  The early spellings of the surname might suggest Abbot. But that spelling is rarely found now.

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England.  Ralph Abbod was recorded in Somerset in 1272 and an Abbot family has been traced to the village of Chelsworth in Suffolk from the early 14th century.  These Abbots were clothiers in the 16th century and were still evident there, as Abbotts, in the 19th century.

However, the Abbot and Abbott names in England have been found more in the southeast and the southwest of the country and in Yorkshire (as Abbotts are today).

SE England.  Maurice Abbot, a staunch Protestant, was a cloth worker in Guildford, Surrey during Elizabethan times (he died in 1606).  Three of his six sons reached high positions in their respective fields:

One line from George Abbot led to the Victorian schoolmasters Edwin Abbott, father and son, in London.

SW England
. The Abbots were to be found in Shaftesbury in Dorset from the 1600’s and possibly earlier. The local churchyard has a monument to John Abbot, the grandfather of Charles Abbot who served as Speaker of the House of Commons between 1802 and 1817. Earlier records in Dorset include:

The Abbotts were also in Devon. William Abbott, in charge of wines at Hampton Court, came into possession of Hartland Abbey in 1539 as a gift from the King at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. His descendants through the female line have remained there to this day. During the 16th and 17th centuries an Abbott family of Frithelstock in north Devon were renowned for their plasterwork at houses in the area.

Yorkshire. Early Abbots were on both sides of the religious divide.  Henry Abbot who had converted to the Roman Catholic faith was executed in York in 1597 for seeking to convert others to Catholicism; while George Abbot, from a gentry family at Easington in the East Riding, was a staunch Parliamentarian during the Civil War and was known as “the Puritan” because of his writings.  One later Abbott line began with the marriage of William Abbott and Elizabeth Kirby in Kirklington in north Yorkshire in 1742.

Elsewhere. Abbotts were recorded in Wellingborough in Northamptonshire as early as the 14th century. One important Abbott family was traced back to the village of Gretton in this county where Robert Abbott was born in 1610. He made his mark in London as a scrivener (money-lender). The line through his son Jasper  became merchants in the Levant.

“Jasper Abbott was a merchant in Smyrna for twenty years, from about 1660 to 1680, and was then a merchant in Constantinople for the other twenty years, there dying
and was buried in the English cemetery at Feri-keui (in Constantinople) where his tomb may still be seen in good order.  His tomb is emblazoned with a coat of arms and records his pedigree in as much dignity as Latin can give.”

The line from Henry Alexius Abbott of this family included four sons who were to be generals in the British army and one son who became the British Consul General in Odessa.  Sir James Abbott had the town of Abbottabad in present-day Pakistan named after him following his military exploits in the region in the 1840’s.

A descendant Jasper Abbott put together the Abbott Family Pedigree in 1952.

Scotland.  Abbott does occur in Scotland as a surname mainly in and around Dundee. William Abbat was born in Dundee in 1654. His name had become Abbott two generations later.  The more common Scottish name is McNab which originated in Perthshire and means “son of the abbot” from the Gaelic.

Ireland. The Abbott surname, of English origin, was to be found mainly in Dublin.  John Abbott from Devon who came with Cromwell in the 1650’s and was known as “God Be With Us” Abbott was granted lands in Cork.

America.  George Abbott came to the Massachusetts colony around the year 1640 from Yorkshire according to the family tradition (although this tradition was probably not true) and was among the first settlers of Andover three years later.  The Abbott house in which George Abbott and his wife Hannah lived was still inhabited two hundred years later by a seventh generation Abbott.

Descendants of George Abbott included:

Isaac Abbott was born in Andover in 1810. He moved around a lot during his youth before heading west and settling in Iowa. His son Isaac fought in the Civil War and his son Edward wrote of him:

“While there were many Union men captured during this bloody conflict, Father escaped capture. But shortly before joining the army he was captured by a Miss Elizabeth Hayes, the dearest woman in all the world, and she has held him captive ever since.”

Other early Abbott arrivals in America were:

Canada. The Abbott name appeared in Newfoundland as early as the early 1700’s. The Abbotts in Bonavista came originally from Dorset. It was calculated that there were ten Abbott families in Bonavista by 1800.  Some of them became prominent Methodists in their community during the 19th century. Abraham Abbott was quite a celebrity in his day, as this account from the 1850’s suggests:

“On one occasion Abraham Abbott was brought into court for some remark he had made in the pulpit. Before the verdict was given Mr. Abbott was asked for his defense. His accusers were put to silence and Abraham, though ‘severely tried,’
walked triumphantly from the courtroom.”

William Abbott, thought to have been a Loyalist sympathizer, left his home in Vermont in the early 1800’s and settled in Point Pelee in southernmost Ontario.  Clinton Abbott’s 2010 book Abbott Family History covered this line. Another Tory, this time from England, was the Anglican minister Joseph Abbott who came to Quebec in 1818. His son John rose in the political ranks to become briefly Canada’s third Prime Minister in 1891.

There was a prominent Abbott black family in Toronto during the 19th century. Wilson Abbott, originally from Alabama, had left that state as a “free person of color” and, after a short sojourn in New York, had made the trek north to Canada in the 1830’s.  He prospered in Toronto real estate. His son Anderson was the first black Canadian to become a licensed physician.

Australia. Among the early Abbott arrivals were:

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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George Abbot served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 to 1633. 
Francis Abbott
was an English portrait painter of the late 18th century, famous for his portrait of Horatio Nelson now hanging in 10 Downing Street.
John Abbott was the third Prime Minister of Canada, taking office in 1891.
Diane Abbott
is a British Labor Party politician who in 1987 became the first black woman to be elected to Parliament.
Tony Abbott became Prime Minister of Australia in 2013.

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