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Pitman International Name Study

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Location: England, Wales, USA, Australia, Canada, South Africamap
Surnames/tags: Pitman Pittman Pettman
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This profile is part of the Pitman Name Study.


Welcome to the Pitman Name Study Project!

The goal of this study is to compile historical and genealogical information related to the surname Pitman, including etymology, immigration, ancestry, and named places/things. In addition, this study aims to improve all profiles on Wikitree that are part of the study by adding sources, family history, images, and connecting to the global family tree.

For more information on One Name Studies, please check out the parent project: One Name Studies.


Coordinator: Sherry Bartlett
Category: Pitman Name Study
G2G Tag: pitman_name_study

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    1. Add only to individuals whose Last Name At Birth is Pitman, not profiles of individuals whose names changed to Pitman by marriage.
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  • Sherry Bartlett Looking for my ancestor and her relatives in New Jersey, and the places they traveled.
  • Kylie Haese interested in Pitmans in Australia, because my children are descendents.
  • Jef Treece Treece patrilineal ancestry back to John Treece b.1812 whose biological father is presumed to be an unknown Wall, of the "Captain Thomas Pittman" clade, based on Y DNA results and autosomal matches[1]. I am co-administrator of the Pittman and Wall projects at FTDNA. There are roughly 150 matching Y DNA results in this clade as of 23 Oct 2021, more than eighty of which have Big-Y results.



According to Ancestry.com Pittman meaning is English (mainly southwestern): variant of Pitt, with the addition of man.German (Pitmann): variant of Pittmann (see Pittman).Dutch: variant of Putman 2.

The Surname Database states This interesting surname recorded in the spellings of Pitman, Pittman, Pettman and Putnam, is of Anglo-Saxon origins. It is a topographical surname used in the first instance for someone who lived by a pit or a hollow in the ground, perhaps a quarry. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century word "pytt", pit, hole, cavity, which also appears, though rarely, in some English placenames, such as "Pett" in Kent, meaning "(place by) the pit or hollow", and "Woolpit" in Suffolk and in Surrey which have the picturesque meaning of "the pit for trapping wolves". Initially topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of medieval England. In the this case the surname became occupational and topographical, in that it gradually described both where a person lived and in this case the work they carried out. The suffix 'mann' used in this context describes one who worked in or perhaps owned a 'pit'. Early examples of the name recording include Johanes Pittman who married Alicia Spratt at the famous church of St. Martin in the Fields, London, on July 25th 1633, and Andrew Pitman, who married at St Dionis Backchurch, London, on April 19th 1645. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Urban Piteman, which was dated 1203, a witness at the Assize Court of Northampton, during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Although Pitman originates in England, there are Pitmans in Ireland[2], Germany, Scotland, Denmark, Argentina, Australia and The United States. Regarding immigration to the US, the Hearldrys Institute states The exact period of settlement in North America has not been definitely determined but Information extracted from Public and Civil registry archive's confirm that one of the first settlers was a certain 'William Pitman', aged 24, a carpenter and joiner by trade, from Worcester, England. He immigrated to North America in 1774, sailing from the Port of London aboard the ship named the 'Rebecca' on the 28th of August 1774, arriving in Maryland on the 4th of September of the same, where he served as indentured servant. Today, 'Pittman' is the '620th' most common surname in North America.


  • Pittman
  • Pettman
  • Putnam
  • Piteman
  • Pittmon[3]

Ethnicity and Religion

Ashkenazi Jews

There appears to be a small group of Ashkenazi Jews with the Pitman surname who emigrated from Europe to Argentina.[4]


There are a number of Pitman families in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the early 1700s that are members of the Quakers. For example: Aron Pitman

Connection to Robinson Crusoe

From some deepest darkest Somerset research of the 1600s....

Henry Pitman - possibly the ‘real’ Robinson Crusoe.

Some Pitmans were from the Somerset villages around southern Bridgwater. During 'The Battle of Sedgemoor’, which took place in 1685 between the Duke of Monmouth and troops loyal to James II, a Henry Pitman was in the area at the time.

After the battle Henry, who was a surgeon, was asked to help the Duke of Monmouth. However, when the Duke was caught later on, Henry was found guilty as well. As punishment, Henry was sent to prison on the Caribbean island of Barbados, along with his brother, William Pitman. After William died, Henry escaped on a raft. However, he was later shipwrecked on a desert island in the middle nowhere and had to survive on food he found on the island. He later escaped and returned to England, where he was pardoned.

While in England, Henry stayed in the house of Daniel Defoe (who wrote Robinson Crusoe) for a while. Some historians therefore think Daniel Defoe was inspired to write Robinson Crusoe from hearing, or reading about, Henry’s ‘adventures’.

Henry at the Battle of Sedgmoor:

“The battle of Sedgemoor waged prior to the fleeing of the king and produced many prisoners of the crown. Some were shipped to Australia and many to the Caribbean, Barbados in particular. Amongst those was a man called Henry Pitman.” (3)

“Among those present at the battle was a young doctor named Henry Pitman who was visiting relatives in Sandford, another town in Somersetshire. Friends convinced him to see the Duke of Monmouth and his army as they marched to Taunton. As he later wrote in A Relation of the Great Sufferings and Strange Adventures of Henry Pitman in 1689." (4)

Henry’s sentencing:

“Henry Pitman found himself standing in the dock before Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys at what became known as the Bloody Assizes. Henry’s account explainded how he and others were coerced into confessing, which merely served to acquaint Jeffreys with their crimes and provide “the [True] Bill against us, by the Grand Jury”, rather than proving them guilty of treason.” (4)

“Pitman’s and Blood’s death sentences weren’t carried out because the Secretary of State, Sir Robert Spencer, Earl of Sunderland, sent word that “rebels should be furnished for transportation to some of His Majesty’s southern plantations, Jamaica, Barbados, or any of the Leeward Islands. Henry and Peter would be sold into slavery for at least ten years.” (4)

Henry’s time in prison in Barbados:

“Henry Pitman barely mentioned the five-week voyage: “…had a very sickly passage, insomuch that nine of my companions were buried at sea.” (4)

“Henry Pitman made no mention of being sold at auction, only of being “consigned to Charles Thomas and his Company,” who, in turn, commanded him to serve Robert Bishop. Henry Pitman’s master was Robert Bishop, who “grew more and more unkind unto us, and would not give us any clothes, nor me any benefit of practice…. Our diet was very mean. 5 lbs. of salt Irish beef, or salt fish, a week, for each man; and Indian or Guinea Corn ground on a stone, and made into dumplings instead of bread.” Unlike his fictional counterpart, this Bishop eventually owed so much money all his property, including Pitman, was confiscated and resold. Henry Pitman resolved to flee because his brother died. He also gave up hope that he’d receive a pardon, which his relatives back in England attempted to secure for him. Nor could he endure the abuse.” (4)

“By this law Pitman's hopes were frustrated, and, utterly disheartened, he was not inclined to work at his profession for the master to whom he had been sold. Although the status of a surgeon was not then as high as it is now, it was yet a great downfall to practise the profession on rations of five pounds of salt beef or fish per week, with nothing else but cornmeal. As for the fees, which were large, the master pocketed them, leaving Pitman to endure the discomforts of a tropical residence and semi-starvation as best he could. On one occasion he refused to go on with his work, and for this he was beaten by his master until the cane used was broken in pieces. Then the master became bankrupt, and, with his brother. Pitman was sent back to the merchant to whom they had been first consigned. (1)

Here his brother died of the hardships he had experienced, and Pitman resolved to escape, not withstanding the risk of attempting such a thing. Having made the acquaintance of a poor man who was willing to help, he got a consignment of goods from his friends in England, with which to raise the means. A boat was purchased for twelve pounds but this led to inquiries, as the huyer was known to be poor, and his creditors began to come down upon him. However, Pitman contributed enough to satisfv' them, meanwhile postponing his departure until suspicion had been lulled. (1)

Henry’s escape from Barbados:

“Prison conditions in Barbados were dreadful, and Pitman convinced of his eventual death in prison, made his escape to the west coast of that island. He eventually built a raft and fitted it with a sail that he had made from flotsam, and filled the bladders of many goats with water and laid in a store of smoked goat meat. With these meager supplies strapped to his raft, Pitman set sail from Barbados one moonless night to be carried in every direction the wind and the currents would take him.” (3)

On the evening of the 9th of May, 1687 — this being a holiday, when most of the people were revelling — he and seven other bond-servants got safely off in their open boat, with a small supply of provisions and water, a few tools, a compass, and a chart. They intended to make for the Dutch island of Curasao, six hundred miles distant ; but even before they were out of Carlisle Bay their frail craft began to leak, and they had to tear up their clothes to stop the gaping seams. At sunrise they were out of sight from the land, but so enervated by sea-sickness that some would willingly have gone back. However, they went on as best they could, with nothing but their hats to bale out the water, which still continued to trickle into the boat. They were a little more comfortable as the sun rose, but when night came a gale arose which kept them employed baling for their lives. To add to their difficulties the rudder broke, and they had to steer with an oar. (1)

Five days passed in this manner, the refugees hardly able to get an hour's rest for the baling and continual fear that the boat would sink if left alone. On the sixth morning they saw Margarita, but could not land on account of the rocky shore, which nearly wrecked them on their making the attempt. Sheering off, they next day - sighted Saltatudos island, one of the Dry Tortugas, where they met a boat manned with privateers, who treated them kindly, and wanted them to join their company. To this, however, Pitman and his companions would not agree, and this annoyed the privateers, who burnt their boat and virtually kept them as prisoners. When they went on a cruise the refugees were left in charge of four men, and had much ado to find enough turtle to keep them from starving.” (1)

“After many days at sea, he saw land on the horizon one windy morning, and doing the best he could with his ungainly craft he eventually landed, almost dead, on a wide, sandy beach. The setting sun was lighting the sea mists to gold, rising up to the thick green layer that fringed the shore. (3)

On the desert island:

“Pitman also described how he and the others turned turtles.…we walked along the sea shore to watch for tortoises or turtle: which when they came up out of the sea…we turned on their backs. And they being incapable of turning themselves again, we let them remain so till the day following, or until we had conveniency of killing them: for if they were sufficiently defended from the heat of the sun by shade…they would live several days out of the water....in the night-time, to turn turtle; and in the day-time, we were employed in killing them: whose flesh was the chiefest of our diet, being roasted by the fire on wooden spits.” (4)

Over the next several months, Pitman survived mainly on the unsuspecting giant sea turtles that he killed. He saw the remains of habitations and the wreckage of windmills with rusted machinery and torn sails. He also found skeletal remains of a man who had died in terrible battle. At night, he saw the fires of what must have been the ‘wild people of the mountains’, whom he, try as he might, never met in the daylight.” (3) Henry’s escape from the desert island:

“One day, many months after the great sea turtles had stopped coming to the beach to lay eggs, Pitman was half-crazy from loneliness and hunger. He saw as if in a dream a brigantine anchored in the wide bay. He was saved!” (3)

“After remaining here for three months an English privateer arrived, and, at their request, took them on to New Providence, to which the inhabitants had just returned after being driven off by Spaniards. Pitman at last got to Amsterdam, and from thence to England, where the revolution had just taken place, and his friends had succeeded in obtaining a free pardon.” (1)

About the book ‘Robinson Crusoe’…

“Tim Severin's book Seeking Robinson Crusoe (2002) unravels a much wider and more plausible range of potential sources of inspiration, and concludes by identifying castaway surgeon Henry Pitman as the most likely. An employee of the Duke of Monmouth, Pitman played a part in the Monmouth Rebellion. His short book about his desperate escape from a Caribbean penal colony, followed by his shipwrecking and subsequent desert island misadventures, was published by J. Taylor of Paternoster Row, London, whose son William Taylor later published Defoe's novel. Severin argues since Pitman appears to have lived in the lodgings above the father's publishing house and that Defoe himself was a mercer in the area at the time, Defoe may have met Pitman in person and learned of his experiences first-hand, or possibly through submission of a draft.” (2)

“Several years later, in 1689, Henry Pitman published his adventures in London. Pitman called the island ‘Tortugas’. He reckoned it to be at 11˚, 11” north. In fact, he had landed in Tobago during one of the periods of respites from war and contention” (3)

Robinson Crusoe References:

(1) The West Indies and the Spanish Main (James Rodway)

(2) Robinson Crusoe - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinson_Crusoe#cite_note-2 (Wikipedia)

(3) The Carribean Historical Archives - http://caribbeanhistoryarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/ tobago.html (Gerard Besson)

(4) Captain Blood, The History behind the Novel - http://www.cindyvallar.com/captainbloodhistory.html (Cindy Vallar)


  1. Pittman DNA project at FTDNA, retrieved by Jef Treece, 23 Oct 2021
  2. Irish Gathering
  3. Pittman DNA Project Y matches at FTDNA, which has some matching Pittmon testers, retrieved by Jef Treece on 23 Oct 2021
  4. Jewish Surnames in Argentina

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I've just added the 'Robinson Crusoe story', as I feel it might be of interest to other 'Pitmans' around the world...
posted by Steve Pitman
Hello, I recently ran across a Pitman reference while looking for information on William Bentley. I though you might be interested. Its about the Pitman's of early Rhode Island.

Pitman's of Rhode Island I was looking a wiki profile for the Sara Pitman (John, Henry, Joseph, Sarah) that married William Bentley. If you happen to find a profile for her, the Bentley Name Study would be grateful. Hope the source helps. Thanks John Bentley

posted by John Bentley