Recorded in many forms including Bett, Bette, the patronymics Betts and Bettes, the diminutives Betiss, Bettis, and Bettiss, this interesting surname is medieval English. It derives from the given name Bett, itself a short form of either the biblical Bartholomew, or as a metronymic from the female names Beatrice or Elizabeth. Whilst patronymics, that is to say names descended from a father, are much more popular than metronymics, that is descent from the mother, the latter are by no means unusual. This is because in ancient times the mother may well have been the land owner, and therefore a son would often take his mothers name. Bartholomew derives from the Aramaic patronymic "bar-talmy", which means "rich in land", whilst Beatrice is from the Latin 'Viatrix' meaning traveller and Elizabeth is Hebrew and means 'oath of god'. Early examples of the surname recording including Emma Bettes or Bettis of Oxford in the Hundred Rolls of 1279, and Robert Bet in the Close Roll of London in 1312. Leonard Betts was the captain of the "Paule", sailing out of London in 1635. He was one of the eraliest names recorded in the lists of settlers to the new colonies of America. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Terri Bette, which was dated circa 1154, in the History of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. This was during the reign of King Henry 11nd of England , 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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