Family history research on Bottrill, Bottrell, Boterel, Botterel, Botterill, Buttriss, Botreaux and Boterell - all variations of the original spelling

Miscellaneous Bottrills

Bottrill family - Cornwall

Botterell family - Shropshire

Bottrill family Northamptonshire

Early Royal family tree

Early Boterels and Norman kings

Bottrill family in other counties

About the author

Bottrell family - other countries

Bottrill family - France
English Boterel nobles French Boterel nobles Boterel in literature George Washington's ancestry The Hundred Years' War



Family surnames

'Boterel' was the original spelling of the family surname. The family originated in North Brittany in what is now France.

But we didn't have the name to begin with. In 1000AD, people didn't have surnames. You might be called Alan Rufus or Hamo Le Strange or John of London (nick-names), but generally you would just have one name. In battle armour, it was difficult to recognise who was who. William the Conqueror had to take off his helmet at the Battle of Hastings to dispel the rumour that he had been killed. Knights began to see the sense of carrying a shield with a device to identify them. Similarly, people could see the sense of having a second name - Michael Tanner, Thomas York etc. - indicating what you did, or where you came from. Spellings often varied.

Origin of the Bottrill surname

Geoffrey Boterel was born around 1038 to Eudes, Duke of Brittany (de facto), and Count of Penthièvre (de jure). But why was he called 'Boterel?' And why did he carry a silver shield bearing three black toads? There are three possible explanations;-

1. Geoffrey, a second cousin of William the Conqueror, may have been born unexpectedly at a place called 'Les Botereaux', in Normandy while his mother was travelling. 'Botereaux' is the plural of 'Boterel' and means 'The place of toads.' So his shield might show where he came from.

2. Perhaps he had narrow shoulders and wide hips - like a toad, or like a leather bottle (a bota) - and it was a nick-name. But, if you looked like that, would you carry a shield with three toads and be laughed at? Well, would you? Besides, 'Buttriss'- another spelling of the name 'Bottrill' - is more likely to come from 'Botereaux' than 'bota'.

3. William the Conqueror put round a rumour that Geoffrey or his father had signed a pact with the Devil for family advancement, and the Devil had insisted the family bear his own coat of arms - 'argent, three toads erect sable.' Duke Eudes had something on William the Conqueror and this may have been a tit-for-tat. Neither Eudes nor Geoffrey would support the Conquest, though others of the family did, and did incredibly well out of it - a successful pact? No one really believed the story because the family was never Christian, and there is no Devil in the Old Religion.

The fact is that Nicholas Boterel, Geoffrey's son, got a fief in Cornwall - later known as 'Botereles Castel' (now 'Boscastle'), and Alan Rufus, Geoffrey's brother, became Lord/Earl of Richmond - the fourth most powerful man in England. Stephen, another brother, became Duke of Brittany. The Cornish branch, which had the title, was known as the Barons Botreaux.

Bottrill family tree

Above, I've put some family trees over the centuries. They are based on what previous scholars have published from their Bottrill family research. But records are scanty before 1800, and such work is not always accurate. I've tried make the family trees more coherent, and offer them in case they're of any use to you. The trees shown are merely the ones I'm researching - there's a lot more to be done. I'll be happy to help with others if I can. Each tree only shows one main line - the other people on it, who may be your ancestors, haven't yet been followed up. for more snippets of information

and you might like the books on the Bottrill families at

If you're thinking of living in a country like England but with reasonable weather - Spain - you might try