Holton’s the Name #socs

I saw the prompt and thought, “What in the world am I going to write about?” Then I realized that HO were the first two letters of my last name.

alfred-e-neuman
I have no idea why I put this here.

If you look it up in the name books, you learn that “Holton” is an English name. Knowing that, I figured that when Ancestry.com did my DNA they’d find a lot of English. Nope. Ancestry told me I’m Irish as Paddy’s pig. 23andMe.com confirmed it.

irish_paddys_pig_t_shirt_tshirt-p235369423836759935b7i7r_400

The name Holton means “man of the forest.” Oddly enough, so does “orangutan.”

Orangutan 2
A distant relative

There’s a street in Milwaukee named Holton Street, and a town in Kansas named Holton. They’re named after the same guy. He was the head of an organization called the Kansas Society of Milwaukee, a group founded to populate Kansas with anti-slavery people so Kansas would remain a free state. It was home to both slaves and free blacks until 1860, when the legislature outlawed it. Anyway, Holton (I don’t know if we’re related; maybe sixth cousin seven times removed or something) didn’t go to Kansas himself, but after the war he moved to Savannah, Georgia.

Holton isn’t a common name like Smith, Jones, or Wong, but it isn’t rare, like Mxyzptlk. Remember him from the Superman comics?

mxyzptlk
The original Mxyzptlk (DC Comics)

I run into Holtons all over the place. When we went to Scotland in 1979 (a delayed honeymoon) we took a bus trip up and down the Royal Mile. Our driver was Fred Holton. He told us he researched the name (but was only able to go back 500 years) and traced it to Hertfordshire, north of London. When I interviewed with MSA (the company I worked at, which kept getting sold, for twenty years) in Atlanta, the woman I first met said her maiden name was Holton (she was from Americus, Georgia). I also worked with a woman at Harris Bank whose maiden name was Holton. She was a Black woman, which didn’t surprise me; most of the Holtons in Chicago are Black. I once read where, when the slaves were freed, many took the last name of their erstwhile owner, or of someone they’d admired. Were there Holtons who were slaveholders? I haven’t been able to confirm that. I do know that the governor of Virginia in the early Seventies was Abner Linwood Holton, and there’s a school in Bethesda, Maryland named the Holton-Arms School, a college preparatory school for girls in grades 3-12. A contestant on Jeopardy! earlier this year was a teacher there.

Seriously, though, I’m not related closely with any of these people.

I do know that, for a name with six letters, two of which are the same, people have a hard time spelling it. I get Holten, Horton, Houlton, Holden, Halton, etc. I can stand there and spell it out for people and they still get it wrong. Drives me nuts…


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Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

19 thoughts on “Holton’s the Name #socs”

  1. I’ve wanted to research my ancestry, but finding the time is hard. I think one of my cousins on my dad’s side is doing it though…
    Interesting post, Mr. Hal–Mr. Hold–Mr. Holtai–Mr. Holton. 😉

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    1. It’s pretty fun. You might want to see what your cousin has turned up. It’s definitely worth the time to talk to as many old people in your family as you can, because you don’t know how long they’ll be around and they often have some interesting tidbits that can lead to a few revelations.

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  2. It’s a good thing your last name is not Orangutan. Didn’t know that bit about the Superman character. Many people have the worst time even saying my last name, Drucker. It really throws people and I have to tell them it is like trucker with a “D”. 🙂

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  3. What a great write you did. I understand that you would get a whole lot of different spelling for it. At least you know who they are referring to….haha. I get a whole lot of different pronunciation for my name which some are so ridiculous as to sound like a different name altogether….it is French (Hélène), so I get of course Helen, then Eileen, Eleene, even Lynn, and so on, then the last name is even funnier than my first name. So I sympathize with you.

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    1. I saw something recently that said “So many people mispronounce my name that now I’m sure sure I’m saying it right.” When I was very young, so many people misspelled our name H-O-L-T-E-N that I assumed that was the way it was spelled…

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  4. It is always fascinating to me learning about our ancestry and heritage. Unfortunately mine, is too tricky to trace as too many of my family members were born on the wrong side of the blanket and there are no father’s names to trace back!

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  5. I can’t get back too far on mine.
    I like to play with my husband’s — mottern — surely it means a wordbird as terns are birds and mot is word in French. That’s my story and I’m stickin too it.

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