Holt Surname Genealogy

England, Holt as a name is Anglo-Saxon in origin and describes a wood
or copse and, by extension, one who lived by a wood or copse. A
spelling variant is Hoult.
This name or its near-equivalent has also appeared in Germanic and
Scandinavian langauges. The German Holz, when anglicized, may often
receive a “t” between the “l” and “z.” Holt is to be found in Danish and
Norwegian, Hult and Hulte in Swedish, and Hulti in Finnish. The German Hold or Holde, meaning “friend” or
“servant,” may also sometimes get anglicized to Holt.

Resources on

Holt Ancestry

Holt as a place-name occurs in Norfolk and in north Wales; but Holt as
a surname appeared elsewhere:

  • a Holt family was said to
    have held lands in Wimboldsley in Cheshire since the time of King
  • John Holt was a 15th century English judge and landowner in
  • and then there were the Holtes of Nechells and Aston in
    Warwickshire (whose numbers included Sir Thomas Holte, an ardent
    Royalist and the man who built Aston House in 1631).

Lancashire It
has been the county of Lancashire which has had the most Holts, over
half of the Holts in the country according to Victorian censuses

Hugo Holte was recorded as a landowner in Lancashire in 1190.
Later Holts were:

  • the
    of Gristlehurst
    near Bury who were a long-established
    family. Their most
    distinguished member was Sir John Holt, the Lord Chief Justice of
    England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
  • then there were the Holts who held
    near Rochdale from the early 1500’s to

Many of these landed Holts would appear to have frittered
their inheritance away during the 18th century.

Rochdale remained a hub for Holts in Lancashire. A public
petition signed by 2,100 men of Rochdale in 1642 contained the
dignatures of no fewer than 67 Holts. Robert Holt in fact left
the town for America during those turbulent times.

A century or so later,
a Holt family in Rochdale was involved in cotton
manufacturing there. In the early 1800’s George Holt set himself
up as a cotton broker in Liverpool and laid the basis for the family
fortune. Alfted Holt who came later started up the Blue Funnel Line to China in
1865 (a story recounted in Francis
Hyde’s 1956 book, Blue Funnel).
Coincidentally, there was another shipping Holt in Liverpool, John Holt
from Lincolnshire, who began a trading business to West Africa in

A Manchester landmark today is the Joseph Holt brewery chain, with its
127 pubs in and around the city. Joseph Holt, the son of a Manchester
weaver, began this enterprise with a small brewery there in the
1850’s. Edward Holt had a summer house built in the arts and
crafts style in the Lake District in 1900. The brewery chain
remains in the hands of this

Ireland. The Holt name,
brought over from England, could be found in Wicklow, Offaly, and
Monaghan. The earliest presence, in Elizabethan times, was in

Wicklow was also the most prominent presence – when Joseph
Holt, a Protestant farmer, became General Joseph Holt, leader of the
United Irish on the battlefield in the 1798 Rebellion. When that
revolt was crushed, he was exiled to Australia, where he worked as a
farm manager, and he eventually returned to Ireland in 1814.

America. Holts
came to Virginia and Maryland mainly.

Virginia and Maryland
The first arrival was a Randall
Holt from Prestbury in Cheshire. He arrived at the Jamestown
colony in Virginia in 1620 as a 13 year old indentured
servant. He survived the early traumas, was released from
his indenture, and married well.

Robert Holt, from
Rochdale in Lancashire, came to Maryland in the
early 1650’s with his wife Dorothy and they later crossed the Potomac
into Virginia. Some of
the family remained there in Amelia county, others migrated south into
North Carolina. James Holt was the first to head for the rich
farmlands of western Tennessee in 1847. Many of his descendants
remain there today.

Thomas Holt of Virginia had a good Revolutionary War, being at
Lafayette’s side at the surrender of Cornwallis in
Yorktown. For this he was granted bounty land in
Kentucky. His son Joseph became a leading figure in the
Republican party during the Civil War and is commemorated by many place-names.
Judge Joseph Holt House in rural Breckinridge
county, where he grew up, still stands.

Other Holts Some
Holts in America had come originally from Germany or
Scandinavia. Jonas Hold, mayor of Stettin in Wurttemberg, is the
earliest known ancestor of the Holt family of Virginia and later of
North Carolina (the Holts of Alamance county). Edwin Holt took
over the cotton mill
there in 1851. Son Thomas
carried on the business
and later rose to become Governor of North Carolina.

Canada. Canada’s
best-known Holt was probably Herbert Holt who arrived from Ireland in
1875 and became one of Montreal’s richest industrialists. But he was not
liked. In the midst of the Depression he was quoted as

“If I am rich and powerful while you
are suffering the stranglehold of poverty and the humiliation of social
assistance, it is foolishness on your part and, as for me, it is the
fruit of a wise administration.”

The crowd cheered when his death was announced at a baseball game in

Holt Miscellany

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

Select Holt Names

Sir John Holt was Lord Chief Justice
of England from 1689 to 1710.
Alfred Holt was the leading
figure of the Holt shipping family of Liverpool who started the blue
Funnel steamship service to China.
Benjamin Holt established the
Holt tractor company in Peoria, Illinois which evolved into the
Caterpillar Company in 1925.
Winifred Holt was an American
sculptor and philanthropist who founded the first Lighthouse for the
Blind in New York in 1913.
Harold Holt was briefly Prime
Minister of Australia before he died through drowning in suspicious
cirumstances in 1967.

Select Holts

  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 28,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Texas)
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).





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