Select Holt Surname Genealogy

In 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.

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Select Holt Ancestry
England.  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
  • John Holt was a 15th century English judge and landowner in Northamptonshire
  • 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 Holts 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 Balderstone near Rochdale from the early 1500's to 1713. 
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 1884.    

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 family.

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. 

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 saying: 

"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 1941.

Select 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 Today
  • 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).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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