Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Potts Name
Potts Meaning, Origin & Etymology
Like many modern surnames, Potts is polygenetic and as such is likely to have a number of separate Anglo-Saxon origins. One is occupational, referring to a maker or purveyor of pots. The Olde English word ‘pott’ from before the 7th century could also have led to the development of the name. It was and used to describe a depression or pit in the ground; the word dropped the second ‘p’ between the 13th and 16th centuries, but kept its topographical meaning. It could also be of locational origin from one of the many synonymous areas in Europe. It is generally agreed, though, that the name is a shortened form of ‘Philpott’ which is derived from ‘Phillip’. This is taken from the Greek name ‘Philippos’ which combines ‘philein’ – to love – and ‘hippos’ – horse. Phillip became popular as a personal name due to St. Phillip, one of Jesus Christ’s original 12 apostles. However, it lost popularity for a time due to the the marriage of Queen Mary I, ‘Bloody Mary’, and Philip II of Spain, their strong Catholic beliefs resounding poorly with the English nation; along with the subsequent attempted invasion by the Spanish Armada which was reportedly ordered by Philip himself.
The Norman conquest of England in 1066 led to a mix of languages with no set spelling rules, meaning names were often recorded phonetically. As such, names dating back to this period tend to have a large range of variations. Direct variations of the name Potts include Pots, Pot, Pott, Pote, Philpott, Potkins and Filpott. Similar names which may share origins include, but are not limited to, the following: Pottss, Pottis, Pottes, Pottas, Pottso, Pottys, Poutts, Potkin, Potte, Potell and Ptts.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
Some 66,684 people bear the name Potts, making it the 8,126th most popular worldwide. Of these, 41,547 are residents of the U.S.A., and the most popular state is Texas, which 4,277 Potts call home. In Britian, where the name originated, 12,112 people bear the name and it is the 6th most popular surname in the areas known as East Dunbartonshire in the west of Scotland, and Tyne and Wear in the northeast of England; this area is just north of Durham from where the first Potts clan are reported to have lived.
Lower’s ‘English Surnames…’ states that “Potts was the name of an old Northumbrian clan” and indeed, the family name was reportedly first found in Durham. The ‘Hundred Rolls’ census of 1273 reports that the family had spread through Britain with William Pote in Norfolk, Reginald Pot in Huntingdonshire, Richard Pot in Essex and Colin Pot in Lincolnshire. The first literary instance of any variation of the name belongs to one Godwin Pot, who was recorded in the 1115 ‘Book of Winton’ in Hampshire during King Henry I’s reign (1100-1135). In Yorkshire, a Petronilla Potes was recorded in 1311; a Roger Potte in 1352 and a William Pottes in 1540. A marriage license was granted to Charles Potts and Susannah Wright in 1646 in London at St. Olave’s church on Hart Street.
History, Genealogy & Ancestry
Bernard Burke’s ‘The Landed Gentry…’ discusses a branch of the Pott name, General David Pott of Todrig, Selkirk, and Borthwicksheils House, Roxburgh. He states that one George Pott Esquire (son of George Pott) married Miss Scott of Galalaw and had 6 sons. Their son George Pott Esquire married Barbara Turnbull of Firth in 1778 and had a daughter, Barbara, who married Charles Erskine Esquire in 1806. Their son George Pott Esquire of Todrig was born in 1780. He took over the estate and married Katherine, daughter of David Reid Esquire (Commissioner of Customs), in 1807. They had the following issue: George, David, Stephen, Jane Stephen, Barbara and Eliza. Their son General David Pott took over Todrig estate upon his brother George’s death.
One Roger Pott was born around 1510 in Dunge, Cheshire, and fathered a John John Pott of Dunge Pott around 1537. John John married Bridgett Jodrell and fathered John Potte around 1567 in Derby. John married Walburghe Smythe in 1598 and they had 2 children, Thomas and Richard. Their sons took the name Potts and Richard went on to marry Anne Ashe. They had the following issue: Mary and Thomas. Their son Thomas was born in 1647 when a line of the family remained in Derby. He married Joan Platts and fathered Thomas Mansfield Potts in 1667. Thomas moved to New Jersey in the States and married Mary Records in 1698. They had the following issue: Richard, Rebecca, Ann, Thomas, Mary, Joshua and William.
John and Walburghe’s other son Thomas Potts was born in Montgomery, Wales, in 1582. He married Mary Ann Howison and fathered John Potts in 1608. John married a woman named Anne in 1630 and they had the following issue: Thomas, George, John, Alice, Anne, Elizabeth, Sarah and Margaret. Their son Thomas was born in 1632 in Llangurig, Wales, and married Elizabeth Baset. They moved to the United States and had the following issue over their lifetimes: Isaac (Botts), John, Thomas, Jonas, Margaret, George, Elizabeth, Jane and David. Their son John was born in 1658 and married Elizabeth McVeigh. John died in 1698 in Philadephia, PA, but not before fathering Jonas, Mary F, John, Margaret, Thomas and Eleanor. His son Thomas was born in Llangirrig, Wales, in 1680. He and his siblings travelled on the ship ‘William Galley’ in 1698 to live with their uncle in Germantown, Maryland. Thomas married Martha Keurlis in 1699 and had the following issue: Elizabeth, Mary and John. His wife Martha died in 1716 and he re-married Magdalena Robeson around 1718. They had the following issue: Martha, Martha (Yorke), Thomas Jr and David. Thomas’ son John was born around 1710, was one of the first Iron Masters in Pennsylvania, and went on to be the founder of Pottstown, PA. He married Ruth Savage and they had 2 sons, Thomas and Samuel. Their son Samuel was born in 1736 in Colebrookdale, PA, married Joanna Holland, and fathered David Potts around 1758. David married Martha and fathered Francis in 1802. Francis married Anna Church and fathered Francis Thomas Potts. He died in 1870 in Pennsylvania.
One of Thomas Potts and Elizabeth Baset’s other sons, George, was born in 1665 in Montgomeryshire, Wales. He married Margaret Chater and died in Indonesia in 1690, but not before fathering George Potts in 1695 in Northumberland. This George married Jane Routledge in 1713 and they had the following issue: Elliner, William, John, Margaret, Jane and Hannah. Their son John was born in 1719 and married Mary Zelinda Gaels in 1739. They moved to North Carolina and had a son, James, in 1740. James married Sarah Tinnin and they had the following issue: Henry, Robert, William, Annie and Sarah. Their son Henry was born in 1766 and married Margaret henry in 1798. They had 8 children: Sarah Tinnon, F Wilson, Esther Stewart, James Henderson, Margaret Eunis, Mary Evelyn (Allison), Henry Lanson and John Lee. Their son Henry Lanson Potts was born around 1814 and married Eve Davidson in 1843. They had the following issue: Margaret, Martha Caroline, Eva Emmaline, Margaret, Catherine Katie, Mazora A. and Frances Lee Lee. Their son Frances Lee Lee Potts was born in 1863 in Jackson, North Carolina and married Hannah Cavie Fisher in 1888. They had 11 children: Benjamin Thurman, Resur Roy, Frances may, Eva Emiline, Lillie Magnolia, Laura Mabel, James Lanson, Willie Lee, Cecil Leana, George Chandler and Helen Catherine. Their son George Chandler Potts was born in 1913 in Jackson County and died in 1997.
There are many records of Potts immigrating to foreign shores in Australasia and the Americas between the 16th and 20th centuries. Concerning those who made for the ‘New World’ in the 1600s, a Husband and wife, Dr. John Pott and Elizabeth Pott sailed on the ‘George’ in 1620 and were recorded as living in Virginia on the 16th of February 1623. A W.M. Pott sailed to Barbados on the ‘Alexander’ in May 1635. One Anto. Pott’s was recorded as travelling on the ‘Paule’ from London to Virginia in July 1635.
There is no specific listing for a ‘Potts’ family motto, however the ‘Pott’ motto is ‘fortis et astutus’ or ‘bold and crafty’.
We have 5 coats of arms for the Potts surname depicted here, as well as 3 for Pott. These 8 blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical information about where the coat of arms was found and who bore it.
Notable people through history bearing the name Potts include, but are not limited to, the following: Richard Potts (1753-1808), an American politician and jurist who was appointed by 1st President George Washington as the US attorney for Maryland; William Potts (1883-1947), a Detroit police officer who is credited with inventing today’s triple-lens traffic light system; Annie Potts (1952-present), an American actress who appeared in the ‘Ghostbusters’ duology and voiced the character of ‘Bo Peep’ in the ‘Toy Story’ films 1 and 2; Paul Potts (1970-present), a British tenor who won the first series of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in 2007; Andy Potts (1976-present), an American triathlete who became ‘Ironman’ world champion in 2007; and of course Mrs Potts, the enigmatic servant-come-teacup-come-servant from the classic French fairy tale and subsequent Disney animation ‘Beauty and the Beast’.