Home site for the England-based PETTER family name.
There are several families with the surname Petter, but as far as one can tell they are unconnected. Some originate in Germany, others elsewhere. See below for links to web sites about these. This site is mainly about the Petter family or families that originated in England.
My family. My family is descended from George Petter of Barnstable who died in 1842. My father was James ("Jim") Bazeley Petter and his father was Guy B Petter who died in 1948, a co-founder of Petter Engines, and of Westland Aircraft. Another famous member of the family was W.E.W. Petter, the aircraft designer.
Our family tree goes back 12 or so generations (beyond George of Barnstable), though there are some doubtful links. This is the tree updated by Kenneth M Petter in October 1984, based on one by John Marsden Petter's tree of 13.12.57, in turn is based on several people's research including much detailed work by Guy Petter. Virtually everyone prior to 1900 in this tree lived in England.
It is quite a large family, as Guy was one of 13 children. There are branches in India and in Canada, where one of our family - Andrew Petter - was until recently a prominent politician in British Columbia. I am aware of relations in Montreal, various parts of British Columbia, San Fransisco, and upstate NewYork.
Other PETTERs in England. There are many Petters in Sussex and Surrey. So far I not been able to find a connection with those I know to be my ancestors. David Petter, of Chichester, is researching these. There also seems to be another family of Petters in north-west England and Anglesea. (See 'Some Links', below).
PETTERs in the USA. There are many people with the surname Petter in the United States. It seems that most of them have German ancestors. Some research has been done into this family for instance by Kurt Hahn of Healdsburg, CA (see 'Some Links', below).
PETTERs in Scandanavia. Using an internet search engine to look for "petter" throws up hundreds of entries. These are mainly personal home sites of Swedish men. The reason is that Petter is a common personal name in that country.
PETTER ENGINES. As mentioned above, my grandfather and his twin brothers were inventors, engineers and industrialists. They are nowadays best known for the diesel engines they invented, and which they exported in many parts of the world. (In 2001 I found one on the island of Omatepe, in Lake Nicaragua, being used to power a rice mill.) If you do a web search you will find many references to this, first because the company Lister-Petter are still selling engines and secondly because there are many enthusiasts who lovingly renovate these engines, and have shows where they delight in seeing them working.
For a short history of the Petter and Westland companies see Some
The Family Tree. I put much information as ontp a Family Tree Maker (FTM) family file. I got over 1000 names in this database. But now (2021) this does not work any more! I intended to find another way of putting the Tree onto the web, but in 2020 I found that someone had been adding many of my family to an online genealogy site. I also added some data. However I am ashemed to say I cannot remember his name nor even the name of the website!!! So please, if you can help me re-discover this, tell me!
It would be good to gather and make available the family trees of all American Petters, at least back to the original PETTER settlers in the New World.
In England we need to study the Sussex/Surrey Petters and see if there is a link with my family, which could be called the Barnstable/Yeovil Petters.
Kurt Hahn and others are researching the Petter families which emigrated to North America from Austria, Germany and other countries of mainland Europe.
Please inform me about your Petter family tree.
Please also, if possible, add a link to this site - www.petterfamily.com - to sources of information and the email addresses of everyone doing research into the petter name. Thanks.
Origins of the name Petter
Family lore claims Heugenot ancestry but most genealogical texts that I found up to about ten years ago described it as Anglo-Saxon - "dwellers by the pit"! "Atte" means 'by' or 'close to' and 'Pett' is associated with 'pit'. So you might say we were the pits! But some research indicates the source of the name in England to be even more uncomplimentary. It may shock some readers. If interested, click here.
Petter Home Page on FTM (Family Tree Maker) (Temporarily (I hope) unavailable.
Family Tree I have made using FTM
(Be even more patient. It no longer works!!(July 2021)
Family photos (still in a rudimentary
state - SP 21/3/03)
The family site made by Kurt Hahn
A good genealogical forum: GenForum
Another forum: Ancestry
A newsgroup about the other Petter families: RootsWeb
One which in my opinion is not so good: myFamily
Genealogy and Family History Research in UK: click here
Stephen Petter's home site is http://sp37.info
A Petter Engine enthusiast: PetterNut
PLEASE PASS ME INFORMATION ON OTHER RELEVANT LINKS
October 2004, added links to monographs in Somerset Museum, also changed URL of my Home site.
November, 2002. I updated this page with Carole Parker-Smith's information on her new discoveries regarding the name Petter. See below.
I am adding more information to the family tree - relating to James Connor P~, Jeffery P~, and the New Zealand family descended from Reginald Northcote P~ (1903-65).
July 2002. Having returned from a year of traveling (see my home site) I recommence my work, gathering information about the family.
July 2021: I find that the link to my data on FTM (Family Tree Maker) no longer works. It is:
I have submitted the issue to FTM's technical support.
ORIGINS OF THE NAME 'PETTER'
According to the following dictionaries of surnames...
1. "British Family Names" by Barber. Petter from Pettar from Pettaugh - a Suffolk local name.
2. "Dictionary of Surnames" by Patricia Hanks and Flavia Hodges, Oxford University Press, 1988
says the following:
i. English (Norman) nickname for a flatulent person (OF peter to fart, from Latin peditum pp of pedere to fart)
ii. Low German variation of Peter
variations: Pet(t)our, Petain, Petin, Peton, Petot, Petat, Petard, Pettand, Petaud. "
(I wonder if I'm related to Vladimir Putin?)
3. "A Dictionary of British Surnames" by P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, published by Routledge, 1991 says:
"... the surname Petter has two sources
i. Petter, Anglo-Saxon: dweller by the hollow (pit) q.v. Pitt and Putter. Earliest example: Gilbert atte Pitte 1294. Place name in Surrey. Juliana atte Pette 1327, Subsidy Rolls, Essex. Old English pytt (Kent: Pett, Hants: Pitt) - a pit or hollow. (atte means dweller by the ...)
ii. le Pettour (e.g. John le Pettour, 1299, John le Putter, Subsidy Rolls, Sussex, 1327, and John Pethour, 1519)
circa 1250 Rolland le Pettour held land in Suffolk by sergeantry of appearing before the king every year at Christmas to do "unum saltum, unum siffletum, et unum bumbulum" (a jump, a whistle, and a fart). In 1330 the holder of the sergeantry is called Roland le Fartere.
Pettour is from Old French peter to break wind, cf Petard, Peton, Petot, Petain. " (End of quote)
Here is some fresh data (October 2002) on the origins of the name Petter.
An Australia genealogist, Carole Parker-Smith, tells me that she has found strong links between the family name Petter and Heugenots. She says that all the French names of the form Potie, Puttee and Petter are essentially the same. The Potie family were Heugenots who settled in Dumfermline, Scotland, a weaving town. They later moved to Biddenden, Kent, also a weaving town. Carole has traced the Potie family back to a David P. born December 1647. He married Jonet Littlejohn. (End of new text.)
Note that I know there was a Reverend George Petter in Kent, born 1586. This is before the mass exodus of Hugenots from France to England.
Incidentally I am also related to Springhall, described by Hanks and Hodges thus:
1. Nickname from Middle English, a youth or
2. Nickname for a violent and destructive
3. occupational name for operator of medieval siege engine
So, genetically, I am rather a disaster area!
Stephen le Pettour? Bristol, 6/10/2002.
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