Pratt Surname Genealogy

The Old English praett,
meaning trick or cunning, became a nickname for someone who was cunning
or played tricks. The earliest citing of this name was Lefwinus
Prat around 1080.
Pratts Bottom is a village in the London
borough of Bromley, on the border with Kent. Often the butt of
jokes, the village was named after the family of Stephen Prat who lived
in the valley in the 14th century.Some Pratts do not like this derivation and prefer its origin from the
latin pratum, meaning a
clearing or meadow.

Pratt Resources on

Pratt Ancestry

The Pratt name in early times was mainly to be found in
and around East Anglia. It cropped up later in Devon
and in Staffordshire and the Yorkshire dales.

Suffolk Wilfric
Prat was documented in the Seals
of Suffolk in 1179. Walter Pratt of Baldock in Hertfordshire was
born in Mildenhall, Suffolk in 1390. Pratt families were local
gentry in Norfolk, at Hockwold from the time of Henry VIII and also at
Downham. Sir
Roger Pratt
of the latter family, who became a leading
architect in
Restoration England, built Ryston Hall for his own account in 1672, a
manor which has stayed with the family to the present day. Sir
Roger also built Coleshill House in Berkshire, the property of Pratts
who had become wealthy cloth merchants in London.

Devon The Pratt
name was and is to be found in the west country, in
Devon. One early sighting was in Kentisbeare. Another
family from this area made it in the legal profession in London, rising
to be Earl Camden in the 18th century.

Thomas Pratt, who died in 1739, started a
long line of
Pratt potters
at Fenton near Stoke.

Yorkshire The
little village of Askrigg in Wensleydale can boast the 18th century
jockey and horse breeder John Pratt and the early 19th
century clockmaker James Pratt.

The Pratt name also cropped up in Swaledale, beginning with
Thomas Pratt in 1630.
Poorly educated, these Pratts worked at the Old Gang lead mines on
Gunnerside and were converts to Methodism. However, these mines
closed down in the 1840’s and the Pratts left the area.
The Rev. John Pratt was posted to Newfoundland in 1873. His son
was the poet, E.J. Pratt. The family
was traced by daughter Claire in her 1971 book The Silent Ancestors: the Forebearers of
E.J. Pratt

A Pratt family had arrived in Ireland from Leicestershire in 1641 and
acquired land in Meath and later in Cavan. They held onto Cabra
castle in county Cavan until 1964. Other Pratts took land in
Youghal, Cork and county Laios at this time (John Pratt was known as
“Cromwell Pratt” in Laios).

Scotland. The Pratt name
appeared at Nairn in the Scottish Highlands during the 13th
century. They became a sub-sept of the Grant
clan. They
showed up in numbers first in Fife and later in Aberdeen.

America. Phineas Pratt
probably the first Pratt arrival in America, coming to Massachusetts
Bay with Thomas Weston in
1622 and helping to establish the Wessagusett plantation. Forty
years later as an old man, he wrote an account to the court of
Massachusetts of the colonists’ early struggles. He lived onto
the ripe old age of ninety.

Other early Pratts in New England were:

  • Joshua Pratt who arrived at Plymouth on
    the Anne in 1623 and Matthew
    who came in the 1630’s and settled in Weymouth. Matthew’s line
    was covered in Francis Pratt’s 1890 book The Pratt Family.
  • while John and William Pratt were
    Puritans who had settled in Hartford, Connecticut in 1636. From
    this lineage
    came Jared and the Mormon Pratts. There are, because of multiple
    wives, a staggering 30,000 descendants of the 18th century Jared

Massachusetts later produced one remarkable Pratt family.
Pratt was born in Wrentham in 1771, the son of Noah and Hannah
Pratt. He became the famous New England organ builder of his
time. His
son Addison was first a Yankee whaler and then a Mormon missionary in
the Pacific islands. His wife Louisa Barnes Pratt, from whom he
was later separated, became better known to the wider public after her
memoirs of missionary work and pioneer life was published.

Captain Henry Pratt, the son of London pewterer Henry Pratt, would sail
regularly between London and Philadelphia in the 1680’s at the time of
William Penn’s first arrival there. He too made his home in
Philadelphia. A descendant, also named Henry, became a successful
merchant trader in the city in the years following the Revolutionary
War. He built his home, the Lemon Hill Mansion, in what is now
Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park.

Virginia and the South.
Virginia received one notable Pratt. A son of Charles Pratt, Earl
Camden, was said to have had
difficulties at Oxford University. He therefore decided to
emigrate to America
rather than to embarass his father. Charles and his brother John
in Virginia in the 1790’s, acquiring estates in Caroline County.
Martha Pratt returned from Virginia to England with her husband in the
early 1800’s. But she left a painting of herself at the
Shirley plantation manor.

“Family descendants noticed an unusual
property of the painting. Whenever Aunt Pratt’s painting was
removed from its spot on the second floor, the frame would start
shaking violently. In 1974 the Virginia Tourist office put the
painting on display in Rockefeller Center. It caused a sensation
with its constant vibrations.”

Daniel Pratt
made his mark in the South in the years prior to the Civil
War. He had moved to Alabama from New Hampshire in the 1830’s and
was really the South’s first industrialist in what was then mainly an
agricultural economy.

Heading West.
Pratts also headed West, in particular to Kansas. The most
celebrated was Caleb Pratt, a young Civil War officer who died in the
conflict and after whom Pratt, Kansas is named. Other Pratts in
Kansas were:

  • Ephraim Pratt and
    his wife Betsy who came to farm in Neuchatel, Kansas in 1869 (after he
    his animals in a prairie fire he became a preacher)
  • Alfred Pratt
    who arrived from Indiana in 1876 and was one of the first settlers in
    Hamilton county.
  • and a Pratt family from Yorkshire which came to Kansas in
    1878 and built the
    Cottonwood Ranch
    (which stayed in family hands for almost a

Canada. Newfoundland can
boast not only the poet E.J. Pratt, but also the painter and printmaker
Christopher Pratt. He designed the flag for Newfoundland which
was adopted by the provincial legislature in 1980.

Pratts arrived
elsewhere in Canada as the 19th century proceeded:

  • Alexander
    Pratt from Scotland operated a grist mill in Cobourg, Ontario in the
  • Robert
    and Henry
    were early settlers in the 1890’s on the Canadian
    Pacific Coast side, at Kamloops in British Columbia.
  • and
    Ralph Benjamin Pratt arrived from Sydenham in Kent in the 1890’s as
    well and became an architect for the Canadian National and Canadian
    Pacific Railways.

South Africa. James Pratt
is the forgotten man in South African history. He was an early
explorer in the Witwatersrand. owning what is now prime Johannesburg
land. But he fell foul of the Boers in Transvaal who confiscated
this land. He returned to England a broken man.

Australia and New Zealand.
William Pratt from Devon was transported to Tasmania in 1825 for
burglary, became a printer, and on his release in 1859 served the local
Methodist Church. His son and grandson were both prominent
Methodists, first in New Zealand and then in Australia.

Richard Pratt was born Ryszard Przecicki iof Jewish parents in Poland
but changed his name on arrival in Australia in 1938. He became
known as “the cardboard king” for his packaging company and was one of
the richest men in Australia on his death in early 2009.

Select Pratt Miscellany

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

Pratt Names

Charles Pratt, who became the 1st Earl Camden, was Lord
Chancellor under Pitt and a proponent of civil liberties.
Rev. Josiah Pratt was the first
secretary and part-founder of the Church Missionary Society in the
early 1800’s.
Francis Pratt founded with Amos
Whitney in 1860 the company Pratt & Whitney to manufacture machine
tools and precision instruments (and later jet engines).   Charles Pratt was one of the
pioneers of the US petroleum industry. His Brooklyn oil refinery
later became part of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil empire.
E.J. Pratt from Newfoundland
was one of the foremost poets of Canada in the first half of the 20th
William Pratt from London
changed his name
to Boris Karloff on emigration to Canada. He became well-known
for his acting in horror films, in particular in Frankenstein.
Hugo Pratt was an acclaimed
comic book creator. His grandfather was English (and related to
the actor Boris Karloff), but he was Italian in nationality.

Select Pratts Today

  • 14,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in West Midlands)
  • 23,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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