Bartlett Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Bartlett Surname Meaning

Bartlett is the current standard name, although the past reveals a number of variants (Barttelot, Bertalot, Bartlet, Bartleet, and Barlett).

These names are of Norman origin and came to England originally with the Norman Conquest. Their derivation in Normandy is uncertain. Possibly the name is a diminutive of Bartholomew; or of Bertha; and there have been other suggestions as well.

As an implant, its spread in England was limited. The name is even now only really to be found in the south of England and concentrated in certain localities there.

Bartlett Surname Resources on The Internet

Bartlett Surname Ancestry

  • from SW England
  • to America, Canada and Australia

England. The line is said to have begun with an Adam Barttelot who arrived in England with William the Conqueror. Early records show the name associated with the Stopham estates in Sussex near Petworth to the east and Somerset to the west.  These appeared to mark the outer limits to where Bartletts were to be found.

Dorset.  But the largest number of these Bartletts were to be found in Dorset.  A Robert Bartelot is recorded as mayor of Dorchester in 1450. The family leased Muston Manor in Puddletown, four miles northeast of Dorchester. From these roots came Robert and Richard Bartlett, brothers who sailed for America on different ships in 1623 and 1632.

These Bartletts were augmented by a wave of Norman immigration in the 1500’s.  Some were seafarers who stayed in or close to the ports through which they entered. Others settled in the dairy farming country which lay immediately behind the coastal hills, on a line roughly from Wareham in the east to Bridport in the west.  Legend has it that these Bartletts may have gotten a little Spanish blood in them, possibly that of Basque sailors.

As the world opened up for emigrating in early 17th century, many Bartletts from Dorset joined this exodus.

Elsewhere.  There were Bartletts as well in counties neighboring to Dorset.

A Bartlett family can be traced to the Devon village of Marldon from the early 1600’s.  This family later settled along the coast at Teignmouth.  Other Bartletts could be found nearby, in Paignton and Brixham.  Many, like their Dorset namesakes, were seafarers.

From a humble family of Brixham trawlermen came Captain and later Commodore Charles Bartlett  He rose through the ranks to be the captain of the great sea liners of his day.   He might have captained the Titanic on its tragic maiden voyage in 1912.  He did captain the Britannic when it was sunk by a mine in the Aegean Sea in 1916.

In Wiltshire, clusters of Bartletts can be found in and around Warminster, in small villages such as Heytesbury, Norton Bavant, and Chalford. James Bartlett’s brewery was a familiar sight on the High Street in Warminster from the 1830’s.

In Hampshire, there was a Bartlett presence recorded in the village of Fordingbridge (the Rev. Henry Bartlett) in the late 1600’s. James Bartlett’s roots there go back to the late 1700’s. He started Bartlett’s Steam Fair in the 1890’s. This fair, with its collection of steam engines, roundabouts, and swingboats, was held annually on Church Street and it regularly toured the south of England. The attraction continued with his son Alf until the 1940’s.

America. New England was an early point of arrival for Bartletts.

New England.  Robert Bartlett came to Plymouth with his wife Mary Warren in 1623.  Other Bartletts who followed him were:

  • Thomas and Hannah Bartlett to Watertown in 1630
  • Richard and Joanne Bartlett to Newbury in 1632
  • Robert and Ann Bartlett to Northampton in 1632
  • Richard and Abigail Bartlett to Newbury in 1640
  • and Christopher Bartlett to Newbury in 1649.

Among their illustrious Bartlett descendants was Dr. Josiah Bartlett, a signer of the American Declaration of Independence and later Governor of New Hampshire.  He was descended from Richard Bartlett from Sussex who came to Newbury, Massachusetts in 1632.

There were also Bailey Bartlett, a friend of John and Samuel Adams, and Gershom Bartlett who carved the most unusual gravestones.  Then there was Enoch Bartlett who started marketing the famous Bartlett pear in Massachusetts in 1812.

Bartletts are still clustered in Massachusetts. But over the years they have spread through New England and beyond. Some were Quakers who had moved to the nearby state of Rhode Island where their religion was tolerated. John and Sarah Bartlett, together with their eight children, arrived there in 1683. From this Quaker stock came Elisha Bartlett, the noted 19th century medical writer.

The descendants of Josiah Bartlett in the mid-19th century included:

  • Samuel Bartlett, who was for many years President of Dartmouth College
  • A.C Bartlett, who was a pioneer merchant in Peoria Illinois
  • and Joseph Bartlett, who settled in South Bend Indiana. His wife was active in raising funds for runaway slaves on the underground railway.

Maryland.  The Bartlett settlement in Maryland had a strong Quaker tinge. A Bartlett family was present at the first Quaker meeting in Talbot County in 1684. Their presence in the county continued through the 18th and 19th centuries. Richard Bartlett was one of the signers of the Quaker petition on religious freedom in 1783.

Some eighty years later, William Bartlett published three illustrated journals, which – with his childhood recollections, stories, and social observations – captured very much the flavor of those days.

Tennessee and Texas.  There are records of Bartletts as mill-owners in the late 18th century – Solomon Bartlett in Caroline county and Nicholas Bartlett in Blount county, Tennessee – in what was then still Indian country. A historical marker of the mill exists today.

A son Jesse was one of those pioneer Texans who arrived in 1832 when it was still part of Mexico and played his part in the Texas Revolution of 1836. His fourth child Clementina Bartlett (later Millett) lived onto 1907 and died with the distinction of being called the oldest white resident of the state.

Kansas.  Frank Bartlett arrived in Wyandotte (now Kansas City) in what was then Kansas territory in 1857. Samuel and Jonas Bartlett moved to the northeast, near Junction City. Samuel operated the first ferry across the Smoky Hill river and Jonas started a sawmill nearby.

Two modern-day reminders of the Bartlett presence in Kansas are the Bartlett grain company, based in Kansas City, and the Bartlett arboretum in Belle Plaine near Wichita:

  • Bartlett & Co, begun by F.A. Bartlett in 1907, is still run by its founding family.
  • the Bartlett arboretum, laid out by Walter Bartlett, a local doctor, in 1910, has been lovingly maintained by his son, Glenn Bartlett, and his granddaughter, Mary Bartlett Gourlay, until the present day.

Canada. Several Bartletts left Dorset for Newfoundland in the 1780’s, settling in Brigus on Conception Bay.  Captain Bob Bartlett was a sea captain from Newfoundland best remembered for his Arctic expeditions with Captain Peary in the 1920’s.

Australia.  The first Bartletts in Australia, it must be said, were convicts. James Bartlett was on the First Fleet which arrived in Botany Bay in 1788. Sometimes their wives followed them, as did Thomas Bartlett’s wife Ann and their fourteen year old daughter in 1801.  Sometimes they did not.

Jabez Bartlett, convicted in London for theft, was transported on the William Jardine to Tasmania in 1848. He secured his release five years later, married, and became a dealer and trader in Campbelltown. One of their sons turned out bad. But their seventh child Alice Maud, inheriting perhaps more of her mother’s genes, began a small dynasty of Australian musicians which has continued to the present generation.

After the convicts came the free settlers.  There was a bulge in these numbers in the 1850’s (over seventy Bartletts according to the passenger records). Gold fever must have been a factor.

One Bartlett, John Vigar Bartlett, made money in silver and lived in splendor at Marlsford outside Sydney. There are charming portraits of him and his wife Charlotte that have been handed down.

Bartlett Family History in Sussex

My own Bartlett family line is in Sussex on the south coast of England.  It goes back to the smuggling days at Seaford and life during the booming days of Brighton in the 1840’s and 1850’s.  But it is a sad story.

Just click below if you want to read more about this:

Bartlett Surname Miscellany

The Barttelots of Stopham in Sussex.  This Barttelot family has been one of the oldest gentry families in Sussux, dating back to 1376 in Stopham in West Sussex.  They claim that their ancestor had arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066.

William Barttelot of this family prospered during Tudor times and died in 1601 at the remarkable age of ninety-seven.  A later Barttelot, Walter, served as High Sheriff of Sussex in 1754.  Since that time the young male Barttelots have generally been schooled at either Rugby or Eton.

Sir Walter Barttelot who became the Conservative MP for West Sussex was made a baronet in 1875.

Twelve years later, his son Edmund, trained at Sandhurst. was one of eight British officers who volunteered for Henry Stanley’s expedition to rescue the endangered Emin Pasha in Central Africa.

Edmund, his colleague James Jameson, and their team got detached from the main party and found themselves stranded in the jungle.  Edmund – a brutish man – maintained discipline by floggings and executions.  In the end neither Edmund nor James survived the expedition, Edmund being shot by one of the natives whose wife he had threatened.

Edmund’s elder brother Walter meanwhile volunteered to serve in South Africa during the Boer War and was killed in action in 1900; while Walter’s son Walter, the third baronet, died at the time of the First World War.  Having fought on the Western Front and survived, he was posted in 1918 as a Military Attache in Tehran in the Middle East.  There he reportedly seduced a number of women and ended up by being murdered in his own bed by a cuckolded husband.

The Barttolet baronetage nevertheless has continued until the present day.

Bartletts in Dorset.  Legend has it that the Bartletts in Dorset may have gotten a little Spanish blood in them, possibly that of Basque sailors.  As Captain Bob Bartlett the Arctic explorer who came from these parts explained:

”In 1588 the Spanish Armada cruised north to make all England Spanish. A great storm arose and the proud fleet was dashed to pieces on the rock-ribbed coast of England and Scotland, from Land’s End to John O’ Groats. From these ships hundreds of Spanish soldiers and sailors were washed ashore, dead and alive. Many were so well treated by the coast folk that they stayed.

Thus came to the Nordic Bartletts a strain of somber Spanish blood, accounting not only for their complexion and their hair but for the independence and the airs still found among them.”

Bartlett Emigrants.  Dorset was an early point of departure. Emigration there was organized by Puritan merchants in Dorchester who were seeking a religious and political escape from the tensions of the time. These merchants took over the Massachusetts Bay Company with the idea of setting up a new colony in America. Ships were purchased and colonists were sent.

The first Bartlett to leave was Robert Bartlett, the son of Robert and Alice Bartlett of Puddletown, who had departed on the Ann for Plymouth Rock in 1623. His brother Richard followed nine years later. Two more brothers, Robert and John (the sons of William Bartlett of Powerstock), left Dorset for the same destination twenty years later. And there were further Bartlett emigrations to Massachusetts and to Virginia in the years to come.

Bartletts did not only leave for America. There had been early links between Dorset and Newfoundland. In 1583, a Dorset man had been part of Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s party which had first discovered the island. Dorset men were to fish off the Newfoundland banks for generations to come. Several Bartletts did leave Dorset for Newfoundland in the 1780’s, settling in Brigus on Conception Bay.

Dorset men have in fact left for various far-flung destinations. Three notable Bartlett men of Dorset blood are:

  • In New England Dr. Josiah Bartlett, the signer of the American Declaration of Independence.
  • In Newfoundland Captain Bob Bartlett, the arctic explorer.
  • In Hawaii Charles Bartlett, the watercolorist and Japanese woodprint expert.

Even today, Bartlett’s Farm on Nantucket Island can be directly traced back to its Bartlett Dorset forebears who settled in Marblehead.

Robert Bartlett in Plymouth Colony.  The following were the Plymouth colony records for Robert Bartlett from his arrival in 1623 to his death in 1676:

“1623. About fourteen days after came in this ship, called the Anne, whereof Mr. William Peirce was master; and about a week or ten days after came in the pinnace which, in foul weather, they lost at sea, a fine, new vessel of about 44 tons, which the company had built to stay in the country. They brought about 60 persons, some of them being very useful persons and became good members to the body; and some were the wives and children of such as were here already. And some were so bad as they were fain to be at charge to send them home again the next year.” Robert Bartlett was a passenger on the Anne.

“1635. Richard Stinnings put himself as apprentice to Robert Bartlett for nine years, as appears by a covenant drawn up in writing; at the end of which time he is to have two suits of apparel and three pounds in money or other merchandable commodity.”

“1651. William Harlow and Benjamin Bartlett have killed two wolves for which the town is indebted to them. Robert Bartlett also killed a wolf in the same month. Robert Bartlett has since killed another wolf.”

“1660. Robert Bartlett appeared at court, being summoned to answer for speaking contemptuously of the ordinance of the singing of psalms, and was convicted of the fact.”

“1676. The last will and testament of Robert Bartlett.”

Robert Bartlett’s home in Newbury was called the Lion’s South. He was by trade a shoemaker.

A Letter of Josiah Bartlett.  Josiah Bartlett wrote the following latter, dated June 28, 1778, to his wife Mary.

“Yesterday Congress adjourned from this place to meet in Philadelphia on Thursday the 2nd of July next. The President and many of the members are gone, and by tomorrow noon scarcely any English person will be left in this town as the original settlers here are German and talk that language. I expect to set out in a few days so that the next letter you receive from me will likely be dated from Philadelphia.

I have not had any letter from you since yours dated the 28th of May. I hope you have read mine regularly as I have written you almost every week. My last was on the 21st enclosed to Major Philbrick and sent by express. I am in health and have been as well since I have been here.

I hope the air of Philadelphia will suit me as well, though I had rather not have moved there quite so soon, till the city had been more thoroughly cleansed. Charles Chace is well. Mr. Wentworth is not well which will hinder me from going to Philadelphia for some days, otherwise I should set off tomorrow morning.

The enemy left the city on the 18th and the last account we have of them, they were not half the way to Amboy and our army very near them, so that it seems probable a battle will soon take place between the two armies. God grant it may prove decisive in favor of America.

As the armies are about 100 miles nearer you than I am, it is probable, before you receive this, you will have later accounts from them than I can send you. Many of the German troops have deserted from the enemy since they left Philadelphia.

We happened to have sight of the eclipse of the sun last Wednesday. It was so cloudy all Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday till about 8 o’clock in the morning that the sun did not once appear. Afterwards the clouds broke so that we had a pretty good sight of it. It was much the largest eclipse I ever saw. It was all covered except a very small rim at the northwest, smaller than the bright part of the moon when she first appears after the change. The weather here now is very hot and has been so for three days past.

I am sorry to inform you Mr. Wentworth is very sick with a fever and a bilious vomiting and purging and has been confined for above a week. He is not willing his friends should be informed of his sickness which is, I fear, attended with great danger.”

Josiah and his wife Mary were inveterate letter-writers because of his frequent lengthy absences from their farm in New Hampshire.

The Origin of the Bartlett Pear.  The Bartlett pear was in fact first developed in Berkshire in the early 17th century by an English schoolmaster, John Stair.

He sold some of his pear cuttings to a horticulturist by the name of Williams who continued developing the Stair variety and renamed it Williams. This pear, still used to make the pear brandy Poire William, crossed the Atlantic with the Quakers who adapted it to the table.

In Massachusetts, a Dorchester nurseryman named Enoch Bartlett, unaware of its true name, started distributing the fruit in 1812 under his own name. The Bartlett pear later traveled west with the settlers and arrived in California where it found the ideal climate in which to flourish.

Memories of Captain Bob Bartlett.  The following reminiscences of Captain Bob Bartlett came from a family website:

“Uncle Harry had been north with Peary on the Falcon. In 1894 he brought to Philadelphia Commander Peary, Mrs. Peary, and little Marie Ahnighito.

Uncle Harry started back home with a cargo of anthracite coal. The vessel was carrying a very heavy load and many think the coal shifted, and the Falcon sank taking all her crew with her. The mystery of this tragedy was never solved. Uncle Harry was lost with the rest of them, and so far as I know, though so many Bartletts followed the sea, he was the only one to meet death by drowning.

Bob’s mother, a Wesleyan Methodist, dreamed that he would become a minister. At fifteen, he was sent to St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland, where he enrolled at the Methodist College.

After two years he left and went back to sealing off the Labrador coast with his father. From that time on, Bob Bartlett had a life on the sea. He would captain many vessels in his lifetime.

Captain Bob is most remembered for his work with Commodore Peary in Arctic exploration. Bartlett served as captain on the Roosevelt, Boethic, Karluk, and first served as Captain of the Effie M. Morrissey in 1925.

Several of the expeditions that Bartlett took part in was in the service of the United States military. Bartlett voyaged with scientists, photographers, and students to Greenland, Ellsmere Island, Baffin Island, the Siberian Arctic, and other northern localities during his storied career of exploration.”

Reader Feedback: My ancestor was Captain Bob Bartlett. I would like to be added to this lineage, to let others know his descendants also did something impactful with their lives.  I am a teacher on First Nation’s reserves in the far north of Ontario, very much following his love of the north and nature.   My grandfather was Jack Bartlett from Newfoundland.

Katelyn Bartlett (

Bartlett Names

  • Adam Barttelot is reputed to have arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066 and started the Bartlett line in England.
  • Dr. Josiah Bartlett, a physician from Amesbury in Massachusetts, was one of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence.
  • Captain Bob Bartlett was a sea captain from Newfoundland best remembered for his Arctic expeditions with Captain Peary in the 1920’s.
  • Bob Bartlett grew up in Alaska and was the leading figure in its move to statehood in 1959. There is a statue in his honor at the state Capitol Rotunda.
  • Josiah Bartlet is the fictional US president of the TV drama series West Wing. Martin Sheen the actor claims descent from the original Josiah Bartlett.

Bartlett Numbers Today

  • 35,000 in the UK (most numerous in Gloucestershire)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 23,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

Bartlett and Like Surnames

The Norman Conquest brought new rulers to England and they brought their names and language, a form of French, with them.  Over time their names became less French and more English in character.  Thus Hamo became Hammond, Reinold Reynolds and Thierry Terry and so forth.  The names Allen, Brett, Everett, and Harvey were probably Breton in origin as Bretons also arrived, sometimes as mercenaries.

The new Norman lords often adopted new last names, sometimes from the lands they had acquired and sometimes from places back in Normandy.  Over time the name here also became more English.  Thus Saint Maur into Seymour, Saint Clair into Sinclair, Mohun into Moon, and Warenne into Warren.

Here are some of these Norman and Breton originating names that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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