This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 8th November 1999, reproduced by kind permission of the author, Desmond Holden.

The "What's in a Name" series has been a regular feature in the Advertiser.
Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames and Desmond regrets he is unable to undertake research into the genealogy, descent or family history of individuals.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

"In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves."

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called HUTTY?

This is an unusual name. It has been requested by a reader in Brassington. It is not to be found in the local directory - nor in most other directories consulted by the 'Peak Advertiser'. It is absent even from the enormous volume covering the London area. The exception was Hull where there are about 18 entries plus one for Hornsea. It is the policy of the 'Peak Advertiser' to attempt to answer the questions sent in by readers, however perplexing they might be. In spite of its rarity "Hutty" deserved discussion because it is a good example of what is called a "monogenetic surname". That means that present-day bearers of the name can look to a single ancestor who might be identified from available records.

Most surnames, especially if based on occupations such as "Baker" or "Glover" or upon physical characteristics such as "Strong" or "Little" or upon location as in the case of "Hill" or "Cliff' are repeated all over the country. It would require intensive research to pin-point the origin of a particular bearer of such a name. However the more rare a surname proves to be, the easier it may be to trace its source. This is very much the case with "Hutty" because it is highly concentrated around Hull (East Riding) and in her letter to the `Advertiser' the reader mentions Hull as the birth-place of her husband.

Still that does not answer the question: What does the name mean? And it must be said straightaway that it is doubtful that any positive answer can be provided. The Standard Lists of Surnames for the United Kingdom alone catalogue between them some 70,000 examples (which include the basic names, derivatives and variations in spelling) and yet "Hutty" does not appear. This is because such lists include largely those names which have been recorded in what can conveniently be called "historical sources" i.e. registers of marriage, wills, tax returns, etc. These old records are indispensable in the case of uncommon surnames because such names with curious spellings invariably turn out to be variations on quite ordinary ones. If there are no such records, then very little can be attempted except to rely on inspired guess- work.

It might well have been that the ancestor in the case of "Hutty" was an orphan. Hull? - father a sailor? - lost at sea? - motherless also? - his identity lost in the buffetings of fate. The date would be about the early 1830s just before the registration of births etc. came in (1837). Whether his first name was that intended by his parents, of whom little might have been known, or was simply acquired in some way is a matter of speculation. And he certainly could have laid no claim to any surname. Having to earn a living as best he could, he resorted to being an unskilled labourer in building projects. This involved bearing away containers of soil and stones or bringing sand and mortar to the site. Such containers were a sort of panier or basket, carried on the back. In northern dialect, the name given to these containers was a "hotte" (or less frequently, "a hotte"). A writer from Durham (1434) describes "1 pair of Hotts for ye carryinge of sande and soyle". It is surmised (no more) that a labourer involved could have been designated "a hotty" or "a hutty" according to the local dialect. This ties in with the fact that the tagging on of a final "y" to an occupational item to describe a worker was just about coming in around this time. For example "cooks" first appears in 1776, "middy" (midshipman) in 1818, while "bookie" (betting man) not until 1885. In passing, "brickie, chippy and squaddie" are comparatively recent. Hence it might have been that the ancestor in this case was known simply as "Hutty" and when the occasion arose for providing himself with a surname, he offered that in default of anything else. The author of a juvenile story, set in the 1840s uses similar circumstances in devising a rather unusual surname for his hero - which is "Conny". ("Grit will tell". R. Stead c. 1900).

It is another long shot, but "Hutty" might have been a variation on a place name. A likely source is Utley (Keighley - West Riding) which even as late as 1662 was spelled "Hutley" and of which "Hutly" could easily have been a variation. It is only 60 miles west of Hull. A man could have moved from there and, as usual in these cases, was known among his new neighbours as "him from Hutley" and then, simply, as "Hutley". In a community where surnames were of haphazard assumption and where literacy was limited, it is quite possible that when at some time the name was written down (marriage? baptism?) it would have been easy for the clerk so forcibly to cross the "t" as to carry the stroke over to the "l" and "Hutty" was thus created.

There is also the possibility that the name was imported from the continent. "Hutty" could have been a local attempt to pronounce the name as borne by an immigrant, say, from Norway or the Netherlands. But really, the only way the original meaning of "Hutty" could be established would be to find a record of how it was spelled as early as possible in its development. This is a matter for family historians and not for this feature, which covers different ground.

A very useful starting place is the International Genealogical Index which has been compiled by the Mormon Church which very generously makes it available to everyone.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 8th November 1999.

URL of this page:
Logo by courtesy of the Open Clip Art Library