Bassett


Select Bassett Surname Genealogy

The Basset name was recorded among the Norman soldiers at the Battle of Hastings and the Bassett surname is thought to have come from a place-name in Normandy called Basset.  It has also been suggested that the French basset. a diminutive of basse meaning "short" or "low," was a nickname for someone short.

Basset was the early spelling, but later became Bassett.

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Select Bassett Ancestry

England.  There were two early-established Bassett families in England:

Staffordshire  The first, based in Staffordshire, was initially the more prominent.  They held the title of Justiciar of England during the 12th century (as recounted in the Basset Charters).  These Bassets lived first at Sapcote manor and castle and then, in the early 14th century, at Blore Hall. 
       
William Bassett, the last of the male line, died there in 1601.  His magnificient alabaster tomb, erected by his widow, can still be seen in Blore church.  David and Martine Swincoe's 1998 book Swincoe, Blore, and the Bassetts covers these times.
Cornwall  William Basset obtained Tehidy Manor in Cornwall near Redruth around 1150 by marrying into the de Dunstanville family.  The family was prominent at court in Tudor times (Anne Bassett being rumored to be a mistress of Henry VIII), became one of the largest landowners in Cornwall, and profited hugely from the tin mining on their lands in the early 19th century.  Today there is a Bassett's Cove near Redruth and the Bassett name is still to be found in the area.
Bassetts Elsewhere  The 19th century surname distribution showed that Cornwall and Staffordshire were still important Bassett areas, plus London and the southeast.  One family history traces Bassetts in the Kent village of Speldhurst from the 1750's.  Another Kent family came from Edenbridge at about the same time.  A local Bassett family of Quakers helped start a bank in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire in the 19th century and brought much prosperity to the town. 

Wales
.  The Bassets were in Glamorgan from the 13th century and possibly earlier.  Their home at Old Beaupre near Cowbridge probably dates from the 1300's. 

"Over the columns of the arched entrance can just be made out the capitals R.B. (Richard Bassett) and C.B. (Catherine Bassett), dated 1586.  Above the doorway is a heraldic panel which includes the motto of the Bassett family: 'Better death than dishonor.'"

The family was rich and powerful in Tudor times.  But their fortunes declined after the Civil War.  Another line of these Bassetts held Miskin manor.  They like the Bassetts of Beaupre before them were sheriffs of Glamorgan.  And the Bassett name had by this time extended west into Llanelli and Carmarthenshire.  

America
.  William Bassett arrived at the Plymouth colony on the Fortune from Kent in 1621.

"He was a large landowner, with only four in Plymouth paying a higher tax in 1633, and had a large library of books.  He settled first in Plymouth, then in Duxbury, and finally in Bridgewater where he was an original proprietor."

Another William, this time from Dorking in Surrey, arrived on the Abigail in 1635 as a young boy and settled in Lynn, Massachusetts.  His family later moved onto Salem.

"William's wife Sarah, like so many of her neighbors, was accused of being a witch.  She was tried at Salem and imprisoned for seven months in Boston until she was eventually freed.  She named her next daughter Deliverance in honor of her freedom.  In 1693 she was recompensed a whopping 9 for her experience." 

Bassetts in the South  Another William Bassett left London on the Truelove in 1635 and came to York county, Virginia.  A line of these Bassetts moved south to Georgia around 1750.  Thomas Bassett later fled the American patriots there by moving to the Tombigbee settlements in present-day Alabama.  However, in 1781 Thomas was murdered on Bassett's Creek, just across the Tombigbee river from his plantation.  Bassett descendants still live in this area.

A Bassett family came to Georgia from North Carolina in the early 1800's.  Sue Bassett Folawn's 2001 book Homeplace: The Bassetts of Fort Valley, Georgia traced this line.

Australia.  The tin mining slump in Cornwall in the mid 19th century prompted Cornish emigration.  John Bassett and his family left their home in Madron in the 1850's for Victoria. 

"One of the family stories was that John Bassett was wealthy and brought over a lot of Cornish miners. Perhaps the story should have been that he went backwards and forwards between Australia and Cornwall bringing across different family members until the whole family had migrated to Australia."

Samuel Bassett departed for Queensland in 1858.  There at the small town of Roma he learnt the business of wine-growing and his sons continued the family enterprise.

Select Bassett Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


Select Bassett Names

Sir Richard Basset
of Sapcote in Staffordshire and William Basset of Tehidy manor in Cornwall were the forebears of two long-standing Bassett families.
Sir Francis Bassett was a leading Cornish mine owner of the late 18th century.
Ebenezer Bassett, born to free blacks, was the first US African American diplomat, having been appointed US ambassador to Haiti in 1869.
John Bassett was a Canadian publisher and media baron.  He was inducted into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame in 2000.
Angela Bassett is an American actress who has become well-known for her biographical film roles of African Americans such as Tina Turner.

Select Bassetts Today
  • 14,000 in the UK (most numerous in Hampshire)
  • 7,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 5,000 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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