Origin of the name Boots

`Nomen est Omen`

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A long time ago, a Roman philosopher said  the following opening line: "Nomen est Omem" meaning that in every name there is a story; every name has a beginning and is also then the beginning of that story. Some time later there was a gentlemen with the name of Shakespeare. He posed, more or less, the same question: “What’s in a name”? You can say, that this question also goes for the name `Boots`. 

Boots is a word with different meanings. First off all it is a family name but at the same time it is also the name of an occupation (messenger). Occupational names, in other words the kind of work you were doing, became quite often family names, for example Smith, Carpenter etc.  
An other meaning for the word Boots is a shoe or similar item that you can put on your feet (see below). To put it in one sentence: boots is a word with different meanings, but in this case we are only talking about the `messenger` meaning, and not the walking one. 

The name Boots has the Indo-Germanic base of ‘Bheudh’. The meaning of that name has developed into several variation, for example:  Messenger, Bringer , Courier or Voyageur. All these variation means: a person who carries or/and brings an official messages from one party to an other. Already in the old day’s, for example during Greek and Roman times, they kept in contact with their army’s and civil servants by way of messengers. There is a saying from those days, when the message was not pleasant: “Don’t kill the messenger”!

Also in the Sanskrit: the name Buddha [Buddhism], means in a way messenger. (To get little more info. on this subject look-up, for example in an English or American languages dictionary, the following words: bid, bod, bode, boding, bodhisattva.)

There is a lot of confusion about the origin of the name Boots. First of all, this name has in this case, nothing to do in what a person put on it’s feet, like a shoe. And so, in this case, the German name ‘Stiefel’ translated into ‘Boots’ in English, as the family name Boots (in the USA) is not correct. Also the Coat of Arms that is being offered; showing a black boot, stating that this is a ‘Boots‘ family herald, is in this case pure fantasy!

Later in time, ca.1200-1300, the surnames Bodosone and Bothosone came in use; and still later, the added part ‘sone’ (son) was simplified to a single ‘s’ and the name became Boots. On it’s way through the times, it develops into several variations, that was caused by the way it was pronounced in the different dialects and languages; like for example in  Dutch, English or German.

First, to stay with the English: in Old English it is `Bodian` or `Boda' , and in Middle English `Bodien` urther more, in Dutch it became: Boots/Boode/Bode/ Boot(h) and in German Bote.

Later on, Boots became also Boets and following that it developed into a multitude of variations like: Boodts, Boods, Boot[h], Boote, Bootts, Bootes, Boothes, Bootser, de Boot, de Boos, Boet, Boetius, Bouts, Bots, Buts, Boyts and several more.

Boots is now a Dutch-Flemish family name. The proper pronunciation for an English speaking person is like in `Boats` and not `Boets` (as in shoe).

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It is also an occupational name, for example ‘Post-bode’ is a name used in Dutch for a Post-man. The Dutch also talk about an Insurance-bode and a Criminal court- or Law-Bode, also Stadbode meaning: City or Municipal messenger. Going for an ‘errand’ like in shopping, is in Dutch ‘Boodschap’.

We are now only talking about family names but in the north-eastern part of the Netherlands  and the bordering German East-Frisia , a given masculine name is Bodo; Boda is the feminine form and those names are today still very much in use as a Christian name (look-up for Frisia on internet `The Frisians`).

In the Netherlands, the name Boots is mainly used by people of the Roman Catholic faith and found mostly in the northern part of the Province Holland and also in and north of the city of Amsterdam. The name Boots is also found, around the city of Venlo, a place situated in the middle section of the stretched-out south-eastern Province of Dutch-Limburg. This Province is by tradition mainly Roman Catholic like the rest of the southern potion of the Netherlands. In the remaining part of the Netherlands the name Boots is very seldom found (census 1949). The first time the name Boots was used in the books was in 1285 in one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, the city of Dordrecht:  the name was Arnoude Boyts. 

On the other hand when the spelling of the name is Boot(h), then it is more a name used in the Netherlands by the people of the Protestant faith and it is also, contrary to the name Boots,  more evenly spread-out over the whole country. In particular in and around the Dutch cities of Dordrecht, Utrecht and Alkmaar, going as far back as the 13e century. The founders of the Salvation Army: William and Catharina Booth have also connections with the Dutch family Booth (same family herald: a leaping deer).

In Belgium it is different story. Over there, those two variations: Boots/Boot(h) are very often mixed-up and used in one and the same family. The reason for this ‘name problem’ in Belgium is, that they are a bi-lingual country and that the early Genealogists in Belgium were pretty well all French speaking and they had very often problems with the pronunciation and spelling of the Dutch words. They would pronounce the name Boots as Bo-êts, but just as easily as Bo-êt. dropping the letter ‘s’.  

The origin of the name Boots in Western Europe has to be found in a part of the Southern Netherlands, what used to be called `The Republic of the United Netherlands` and after a 1831-1839 separation conflict, the southern part became Belgium, a name that is Latin for Netherlands, and is since then an independent Kingdom. The name Boots was predominantly found in the Belgian provinces of Antwerp, Brabant and Flanders (look-up:

In the 13e century the name Boots was in use in those Provinces, and  well mostly inside the triangle of the cities Antwerp, Mechelen  and Lier. Also in the ‘Land of Waas’, situated  in the north-west corner of Belgium, near the river Schelde and close to the Dutch border, is the name Boots found in all it’s variations. For example in 1224, you will find in the city of Rupelmonde the names Boidin Bode and Fromond Bode listed.

In the town of Sinaai; in the year 1295; close by the former places; a family name is written down as Bods and in 1330 as Boeds. Later on, you find the names: de Boot, de Boodt, Boet, Boots and Boodts at the same location.

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Today you will also find, more extensively, people with those names in and around the Belgium cities of: Rupelmond, Temze, Bazel and Kieldrecht among other places. Another example of name change: In the 17e century a person is born in Flanders with the name Boots, when he got married he is listed as Boets and his first child is listed as Buts. To-day, the descendants of this family still carries the name Buts as a family name.    

Some members of the `Boots clan` have brought it to prominence. In 1306 a degree was made by Duke Jan III of Brabant by stating that seven prominent `Noble Families` of the city of Brussels were given extensive powers to govern that city and it’s surroundings. They were called: `Les Sept Linéages de Bruxelles`. The families were: Coudenberg, Roodebeke, Serhuyghs, Sleeus, Serroolofs, Steenweegs and Sweers. Those families were known as important business men, lawmakers and aristocrats. The Boots family, living in Brussels, became member of those families by marriage with the Sweer’s family and so became part of this family group.

This same family Boots had at a later date (18e century) also alliances with other prominent Dutch, Flanders and Brabant families like: Geniets, Neuveldt, Schoofsz, Hofstayen, Pypenpoi van Aerps, van Meuyzen, Steelands, Kranen, Vlasbeek and  Roelan(t)s alias the Hamere. You can say, looking at the history of these families: "Money Marries Money"! (Att: in general, as said before in a different content, quite often the name Boot and Boots is used in different publications for the same family.) 

This Brussels part, of the large Boots family, have also a Coat of Arms, however it is not a `Bloodline` herald, meaning that it stays not the same through-out the generations, it is more a Family Herald or Crest. This crest is the kind whereby every family member and also later generations, has made it’s own variation based on an original. Today you would call it a `Logo' , showing among other things in what kind of business you are engage in.

The name Boots itself (and it’s variations) has trough the centuries, spread-out from the above mentioned beginnings in the southern Netherlands, you could say around the year 1000, over Western Europe and crossing over into England, and spreading itself, in the beginning, along the canal coast side. Later on in time the name and it’s variation became more spread-out over England.

The following standard name variations from the basic in the different countries are: Holland and Belgium (Boots/Boot); Germany (Bootz); Great Brittan (Bootes/Boothes); France/French-Flanders (Bouts). There has been several Family Herald variations. The one that you see more commonly is the one with a blue shield and 3 Fleur de Lis, placed 2-1.

One section of this shield has a `Free Quarter` in red with 8 or 9 besants or roundlets in gold or yellow, placed

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and also placed in the OVAL form.

The meaning of the Besanten or Roundlets  is usually money; people whom are in the trading/merchandizing business. The Fleur de Lis is an old symbol of the family Bourbons. The symbol itself goes back to early Egyptian times. The crest head shown can be the heads of an Unicorn or a Dog (but you could also put your favourite cat in it).

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Historically speaking the name Boots is also being mentioned in 1066 during the Battle of Hastings. At that time Duke Williams used 3 army groups from: Breton, Normandy and Flanders, in that invasion. It was said, that Boots had been granted Manor and Lands in the district Berkshire for his assistants in this battle. A different source stated: that Adam de Boothes was in this battle and was rewarded with land in the district of Lancaster. (Very likely they are one and the same person, because the pronunciation of both names is almost the same. Also it can be assumed that they were members of the Flemish army group. Research should be done in this matter.)

The founder of the British pharmaceutical stores `Boots` had in 1849 on his  shop window as advertisement the following: John Boot, `British and American Botanic Establishment' , 6, Goose Gate, Nottingham. Later in time it became: `Boot’s` and in 1880 it became `Boots' , but for all practical ‘genealogical’ purpose his original family name was: Boot.

On a personal note:
Jan Michiels Boots is my oldest, in straight line ancestor, that I have found. His name first appears in 1566, as an owner of a Beer tavern in the village of Spierdyck, a small community in west West-Frisia, west of the city of Hoorn, in a section of the province of North Holland. It is estimated that he was born around  the year 1540 and very possible either in the provinces of Antwerp, Flanders or Brabant, but I am still looking for a  connection. However around 1570 he was married in the Netherlands to Jannetgen Jans and from there on, my own personal family line started.

The foregoing 4 pages, about the family Boots, is a résumé out off a more extensive 26 page, Dutch languages article that I wrote, with footnotes, about that same family. It is the result of a 25 year family research and you can say it is a never ending story.

At last but not at least, I would like to thank my now deceased Flemish genealogical friend  Alois Roelans (alias De Hamere) for a large part of the Belgium information (his family goes back to around the year 1200).

Any comment, corrections or additions are welcome.

Laurens A.Boots, Holland, June 2012