Where did the name Sackett come from?
Several theories about the origin of the Sackett name have been advanced, the most common being that it is something to do with little sacks.
It has been proposed that the Sacketts were of Norman origin arriving in England with William the Conqueror, the name beginning as "le Sackere", meaning one who sacks wool. A variation suggests descent from Adam Le Sackere, a Norman knight in the Conqueror's army.
Continuing the warrior theme, a further version, said to have been researched and authenticated by genealogical historian Sir Charles Empson, is that the Sacketts were archers (from the Latin Sagittarius, an arrow) who came to Britain with Julius Caesar.
A book of surnames researched by H. Gilbert Sackett (1918–1999) attributes the meaning to a "manufacturer of sacks", offering a most scholarly proof.
In another book, Surnames of the UK, by Harrison, "Sack" is held to mean "adversary", with "-et" as a diminutive suffix, implying presumably that the Sacketts were small enemies!
Sackett family historian, Alfred Barrett Sackett (1895–1977), wrote that it was his belief that "the name originates on the analogy of Beckett which is known to derive from bee and cot and to mean a cottager or dweller who keeps bees." He explained further that, "the earliest form of Sackett is Saket and this almost certainly means therefore a cottager by the sea, which in Chaucer's time would be pronounced 'Say'."
Charles H. Weygant, in his introduction to The Sacketts of America, linked the Sackets and Sacketts with the Sackvilles, proposing that all three of these branches were descended from Adam le Sackere, a purchaser and exporter of wool in the 14th century. Later research, however, has found no evidence of a relationship between the names Sackett and Sackville.
Weygant also makes much, elsewhere in his book, of the distinction between the –t and –tt spellings. It is suggested that no significance should be attached to the dropping of a 't'. As Marion Sackett has observed from her researches, "When going through original parish records, it is surprising how often a change in the spelling of names accompanies a change in the handwriting. In other words, it was the vicar who decided how to spell your name." Furthermore, in researching wills and other documents, in both England and America, the name is often spelled a different way each time it appears.
So, were the first Sacketts makers of sacks, sackers of wool, Norman knights, or Roman archers? Or, were they seaside cottagers? One answer is that all these theories are likely wrong. Had any of these been the case then the name would surely have arisen independently in several places. But the concentration of the name in the early records centred around Sackett's Hill in Thanet points to a single family origin. And this raises another question – which came first, the hill or the man?
Are all Sacketts related?
Surnames which originated as trades (Smith), places (Lee), patronymics (Johnson), or nicknames (White), generally arose independently in several places. Such names were adopted by, or given to, any number of unrelated people in many localities when surnames were first used in the 13th to 15th centuries.
One of the curiosities about the name Sackett is that there is every reason to suppose that it derived from a single family in north-east Kent, quite probably at Sackett's Hill. The concentration of the name in such a small area of early Thanet points to a single-family origin, and it is a reasonable conclusion, therefore, that all Sacketts are indeed related.
1. Book of Surnames, title not recorded, researched by H Gilbert Sackett, "This interesting name is job descriptive and a patronymic or diminutive form of either the Old English pre-7th Century 'sacc' or the Norse-Viking 'Sekkr'. Either way it describes a manufacturer of sacks and bags from coarse cloth, hence 'sack-cloth'. In this case we have 'the son of sacc' with the suffix 'petit', shortened to 'et' or 'ett' showing the medieval French influence onto an early 'English' metonymic. Sack manufacture was a very important industry and this is confirmed by the variety of associated surname spellings. These include Sack, Sacker, Secker, Saker which have pre-1066 invasion origins, whilst Sach, Sachs, Sacher and Satch derive from the later Norman (Old French) 'Sachier' of the same meaning."
2. Henry Harrison, Surnames of the United Kingdom: a Concise Etymological Dictionary (London: Eaton Press, 1912), "SACKETT: The French Sacquet = Sac (qv SACK2) + the diminutive suffix -et. SACK2: The French personal name Sac (q. prob. represents the O. Ger. Sacco [from the root seen in O. Sax. saken = O. E. sacan (ge) saca, an adversary = Goth. saken = O. H. Ger. sahhan, to dispute, strive, blame]."
3. Charles H. Weygant, The Sacketts of America, "The colonist ancestors of the Sackets and Sacketts of America came from England. The Sackets, Sacketts and Sackvilles of England trace descent from a common ancestor whose forebears were natives of Normandy.
"While proper names, distinguishing one person from another, have been in use from time immemorial, surnames are not met with in recorded history until near the close of the 10th century of the Christian Era. They were first used in Normandy, and did not come into general use in England until about the middle of the 15th century.
"It is self-evident that surnames were derived from various sources—from articles and terms used in commerce and navigation, from localities, from objects of nature, animals, colors, avocations, and not unfrequently from combinations of two or more objects or terms. And after a surname had once been adopted by the head of a family it was no uncommon practice on the part of his descendants to drop, add to, alter or change a final letter or syllable for the purpose of distinguishing one branch from another.
"Early English pursuits were mainly pastoral. The chief staple was wool, and to export this in an unmanufactured state was the practice. Then, as now, wool was shipped in sacks. It is recorded in the histories of England that in 1340, King Edward III was granted thirty thousand sacks of wool to enable him to carry on the French war. In the records of those early days the name of Adam le Sackere (Adam the sacker) is met with, as one busied, not in the care of flocks or shearing of sheep, but in the purchase and exporting of wool. This man, whose father or grandfather came into England with William the Conqueror, is recognized by the Sackets, Sacketts and Sackvilles of England, as their common ancestor. Just when, or under what circumstances, the most prominent branch of the family in England changed the last syllable of their name from "er" or "ett" to "ville", is unknown to the writer."
4. John Lewis, The History & Antiquities of the Isle of Tenet recorded that Sackett's Hill was "so called from it being the estate of an ancient Yeomanry Family of this name, in this parish [St Peter]."