Mallett Surname Origins — 1851 Census
Geographic Distribution in the UK
The 1851 census covered England, Wales and the Channel Islands. A comprehensive search was done of the nominal index¹ for several possible variations of the surname "Malet"; that being the earliest known spelling of the name in England as recorded in the Domeday book circa 1086. The surnames chosen were based on actual known variations of Malet, and plausible phonetic variations. The goal was twofold: to determine if the chosen surname variations were valid, and to determine the geographical origin or origins of the name.
Regions of Interest
The 3 regions of England denoted on the buttons above were home to the largest populations of people with a variation of the name in 1851 (excluding London — see the rationale for that here). Each is discussed in more detail on separate pages. The counties included in each region can be found here.
Several different variations of Malet were considered, each beginning with the first 3 letters shown on the buttons to the left. Each variation is discussed in detail on a separate page.
Geographic Distribution of Surname Variants
The Malet surname existed in East Anglia, the West Country and the Channel Islands as far back as the 11th and 12th centuries. East Anglia and the West Country also had the largest concentrations of the name in 1851, which suggests that the name can be linked directly to those early Malets.
The Channel Islands also had a significant population of Malets, given their relatively small general population. Their percentage of the overall distribution was about the same as the Midlands, but at a much higher concentration.
The Northern Counties had the 4th largest concentration of the name, but it is important to note that "Mal" variants were in the minority there. It is also important to be aware that there is no historical evidence for the Malet name in this region, as there is in East Anglia, for instance, so it seems less likely that the variants found there derive from Malet. All in all, with the exception of a very large group of Mullet(t)s living in Staffordshire (almost exclusively in or near Dudley and Kingswinford) the dominant surname seems to be Millet(t).
Validity of Surname Variants
The most common surname variation overall, occurring at over twice the frequency of any other variation, was "Mallett". This is also the most common variation in the West Country and East Anglia. Millett enjoys second place, followed very closely by Mullett and Mallet. Mollett and Mollet are the next most frequent. "Mellett" enjoys the highest frequncy of those names beginning with "Mel", but is a distant 9th overall. In all, 65 variations of the name were found, but most are fairly obvious derivations of the big 5:
It is interesting to note that in every case, the most common spelling has 2 "L's" and 2 "T's". A sampling of modern day telephone listings in any English speaking city anywhere in the world will yield the same result. This pattern does not hold true in the Channel Islands in 1851 however, where the most common variation was "Mallet" (2 "L's" but 1 "T"), followed closely by "Mollet". This is perhaps due to their proximity to and affinity with France, where Mallet is also (2006) the most common variation.
It is important to note that surname variations beginning with the root "Mal" are more common in each of the 3 areas where the Malet surname has an historical presence than any of the other roots:
- "East Anglia" = 74%
- "The West Country" = 48%
- "The Channel Islands" = 45%
Given that all of the variations found can be found in some measure in the same geographic areas as "Mallett", where Mallett was the predominant variation in 1851, and where the "Malet" name was known to exist since the 11th and 12th centuries, then it is reasonable to assume that each of them could be a derivation of Malet/Mallett. This pattern holds for the West Country, East Anglia, and the Channel Islands, but is not valid for the Northern Counties. There the surname "Millett" was the most common, and variants based on the root "Mal" were in the minority. In this area, perhaps, the names have different origins.
Frame of Reference
Ancestral Origin(s) of the Name
There are 3 main areas where the Malet name is known to have existed as early as the 11th and 12th centuries:
- "East Anglia", primarily Suffolk, Norfolk, and Lincolnshire
- "The West Country", primarily Somerset
- "The Channel Islands", primarily Jersey
For the purposes of this study, the area covered by the 1851 census has been subdivided into 7 geographic regions that follow, with a few exceptions, generally accepted regions within the UK:
West Country (WC)
East Anglia (EA)
Northern Counties (NC)
South East (SE)
Channel Islands (CI)
The South East Region was home to a considerable number of Malets in 1851, making up 20% of the total, when all variants are taken into account. Middlesex alone accounts for half of the South East total (10% overall), and if one considers that portions of greater London were located in Essex, Surrey, and Kent, then the proportion living in London and environs rises to 16% of the total Malet variants in the 1851 census.
London was and is an economic magnet for the British Isles, and the Malletts who lived there in 1851, though some of them may have been there for several generations, would for the most part have come from somewhere else. So, even though London was home to a significant population of Malletts, it cannot be considered to be a place of ancestral origin of the name.
Last update January 29, 2006.