Image: 15th century scribe found on MedievalBooks blog site of Erik Kwakkel, PhD. researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
Whichever way you choose to spell it, the Jewitt name found its way to England following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The name is said to derive from the surname of Jowett, a baptismal name which refers back to Julien with its noble Roman origins.
According to the website, HouseofNames.com, multitudes of spelling variations are a hallmark of Anglo Norman names. Most of these names evolved in the 11th and 12th century, when Normans introduced their own Norman French language into a country where Old and Middle English had been spoken. To add to the confusion, most people did not know how to read and write. These skills were primarily centered in the churches, where, with no spelling rules and two or more languages competing for dominance, medieval scribes were left to their own devices, spelling names and words according to sound, and using their own best judgement. As a result, names frequently appeared differently in the various documents in which they were recorded.
Fast forward to the 21st century and believe it or not there is a website called FamilyTreeDNA that is here to solve the mystery of which spelling(s) of your name you are actually related to. It even has a "Jewett" Group Project going if you want to submit some of your saliva and find out the answer.
I think of the medieval scribe who could never have imagined such a thing, as he labored alone in his scriptorium sounding out the words: Jewitt, Jewett, Jouett, Juet, Jowitt...
This image of our coat of arms illustrates what "gules on a cross argent and five fluer de lis of the field" actually looks like. The words come from the 11th century French system of heraldry which greatly influenced the terminology used in Britain and all over Western Europe. They are generally defined as follows:
Gules - the heraldic name of the tincture red. The term is probably derived from the Latin gula, which in Old French is found as gueule, i.e. the "red throat of an animal." Or it may be derived from the Arabic gule, a red rose. Others, again, have tried to find the origin in the Hebrew word gulade, which
signifies red cloth.
Argent - the tincture silver; comes from late Middle English denoting silver coins; Old French from the Latin argentum.
Fleur-de-lis - the lily; an ancient symbol that came to signify saintliness or divine right; adopted by the French Monarchy in the 12th century as a symbol of the king's divinely approved right to rule.
Research shows that the family name Jewitt is also of Norman (French) origin and that our earliest ancestors probably arrived in England around the Norman Conquest of 1066. Early Jewitt ancestry has been traced back to Henri de Juatt, a knight of the First Crusade 1096-1099, and Henry Jewet may well have inherited the coat of arms through which he was later granted his office of "forrester and parker."
In placing the early Jewitts on a map of Lincolnshire it is fairly easy to observe that the family settled in the most settled parts of the area. (Unfortunately, we won't find any unique history to grab onto there!) These more populated areas are marked by the red boundaries: Lincoln is to the center and west of the county. North Scarle to the southwest and Saxilby to the northwest of Lincoln are practically suburbs, not more than 10 or 20 miles away. Grimsby is represented by the red area on the coast northeast of Lincoln; and Boston, which figures prominently in later Jewitt history, is represented by the red area near the coast southeast of Lincoln. Grimsby and Boston themselves are no more than 40 or 50 miles from Lincoln and from each other, so the Jewitts did not venture far from home.. at least not at first.
What about the history of these towns? The 12th century is key for all of them: North Scarle is a village on the River Trent with a parish church dating from the 12th century. Saxilby has a 12th century church dedicated to Saint Botolph, as does Boston, which is said to be where the saint was given a grant of land to build a monastery in the 7th century. According to the history books, Saint Botolph was one of the earliest and most revered of East Anglian saints, and became known as the patron saint of wayfarers. Grimsby was a busy port and fishing village in the 12th century, but by the time our ancestors arrived in the late 17th - 18th, the town had suffered a decline. However, by the late 18th century the town is said to have revived a bit, and a new town hall was built. Maybe the Jewitts had something to do with that! This and more is what we hope to find out as our research continues.
A BBC news headline from 2013: "Geocache Hunter Trampled by Cows in North Scarle Field" actually an interesting story accompanied by another beautiful image of the wolds, complete with a textbook example of a verge.
And apparently a less than flattering movie entitled "Grimsby" directed by the infamous Sacha Baron Cohen is set to be released in 2016. Grrrrr.... already, I feel protective of this unfairly derided town... home to our ancestors. How dare they!
It turns out that St. Michael on the Mount -- the setting for the marriage of our earliest documented ancestors, Henry Jewett and Hellin Marshall -- is today, a luxury boutique hotel and wedding venue known
as The Old Palace Lodge. How fitting!
According to Rod Collins whose photograph appears above:
"It’s a superb building in an incredible spot seated high on the hill, looking out over Lincoln and just in the shadow of Lincoln Cathedral. It was destroyed by Parliamentary forces and their artillery in 1643 providing something of an easy and tempting target in its exposed spot. It was then completely abandoned from 1685 to 1744 before getting a complete rebuild in 1853." "It's had something of a chequered history," he goes on to report, "the church was declared redundant in 1998 and sold off by the Diocese."
Ultimately it was put up for auction and purchased by the folks who are now running the luxury hotel. Considering the other possibilities, including ruin and decay, this is not such a bad outcome.
St. Michael on the Mount in its day, was a well-known repository of genealogical records including birth, marriage and death records going back to at least 1562. These records are now deposited with the Lincolnshire Archives on St. Rumbold Street in Lincoln, and bear further scrutiny.
Overall, the cathedral city of Lincoln with its many churches and its significance to Anglo Saxon history going as far back as the 5th and 6th centuries, may provide other relevant sources leading to the discovery of Jewitt ancestors in our line, even earlier than Henry and Hellin.
Links to Related Sites
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust
Rod Collins - Lincolnshire Thro' History, Life, Lens and Words
The Old Palace Lincoln - Elegant Bed and Breakfast
National Portrait Gallery - London
College of Arms
The Jewett Family of America
History and Geneaology of the Jewitts of America
Marvinas Bay Lodge
First Peoples of Canada