This interesting surname derives from the medieval given name "Benedict", from the Latin "Benedictus" meaning blessed. This personal name owed its popularity in the Middle Ages chiefly to St. Benedict (circa 480 - 550), who founded the Benedictine order of monks at Monte Cassino, and wrote a monastic rule that formed a model for all subsequent rules. There were many versions of the name throughout Europe, and in England in the 12th Century the Latin form of the name can be found alongside versions derived from the Old French forms "Beneit" and "Benoit", which were popular among the Normans. The surname dates back to the early 13th Century.
Bennett (Variants: Bennet, Bennette, Benett, Bennitt, McBennett, Benet, Bennetts, Binet)
This surname is derived from the name of an ancestor, 'the son of Bennet’, Benedict, which Bennet was the usual English form. Differently derived from the early personal name of Benedict and from "benet," a minor order of priests.
In the reign of Edward I, the Hundred Rolls for Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire, it occurs frequently in the form of Beneyt. In the reigns of Edwards II and III, the name is found thus modified: Fitz Benedict, Benediscite, Bendiste, Bendish, Bennett.
The surname Bennett was first found in north Lancashire where a Benedictine monastery known as Furness Abbey was by founded by the Savigny monks of Normandy in 1127.
Records from the 12th century show Benet as a common Baptismal name in the region, which then became a patronymic surname (Benet son of Alan). These were all living in the immediate neighbourhood of the Abbey. Indeed, it will be found that Bennet and Benson are still common surnames in districts where the Benedictines have had foundations.
In 1881, a top county for the surname was the county of Kent with 1,881 occurrences. The name was also popular in Devonshire County with a top parish being Plymouth St Andrew 228 occurrences in the Plymouth area. In the same year, Labourer, Farmer and Agricultural Labourer were the top 3 reported jobs worked by Bennett, with the most common occupation being Labourer. A less common occupation was Coal Miner.
In 1891, the population was widespread across England and Wales with 50,591 occurrences with a further 827 occurrences in Scotland for Bennett.
Early notables of this name include Sir Thomas Bennett, Sheriff of London in 1594 who was knighted by King James 1 in 1603.
An English convict from Devon, George Bennett, was transported aboard the “Arab” on 3 July 1822, settling in Van Diemen’s Land, Australia.
Remarkably, Mrs. Mabel Bennett survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic, escaping in a lifeboat. She was only ages 30 and worked aboard as an English First Class Stewardess.
1881, 1891 Census
1881 Census in Kent
1881 Census in Devon
Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016
1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain
1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain