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Batten Genealogy in Newfoundland, England and Beyond

A General History:

E.R. Seary's book "Family names of the Island of Newfoundland" suggests that the Batten name comes from England and was originally a shortening of the baptismal name Bartholomew. The first references I have found of Battens in Newfoundland start with Sir John Berry's census of 1677. There were two Planters (resident fishermen), Arthur Battin in Harbour Grace in 1675 and Thomas Batten in "Bay de Verds" in 1677.

The next references start in St. John's in the mid 1700's with many occurances of John Batten or Battens in jury duty and appointment as High Sherrif of Nfld. The 1794 census indicates a John Batton of Stoke-in-Teignhead, England as the owner of 5 houses in St. John's as well as fishing stages in the harbour.

There appears to have been at least three Battons; John, William and Samuel in Harbour Grace in the latter half of the the 1700's. Samuel moved to Port De Grave in 1768 and was apparently followed by John in 1791 and William in or before 1797. I say apparently because the surnames vary between Batten and Batton and I can't tell if this indicates different people or simply different spellings. However, this is where the growth of the name started as there are few references to the Batten name other than on the Port De Grave peninsula. During the 1700's there were only Thomas, William, John and Samuel Battens. The names of James, Benjamin and Isaac appear around 1800. I have now connected my family line to James Batten who was born in Bareneed in 1795. By the mid 1800's the name disappeared in Harbour Grace and the numbers had grown substantially in Port De Grave.

Around 1780 a William Batten shows up in Bareneed and it appears that the sons of the Port De Grave Battens take up residence there as well. A Batten family, Isaac and Elizabeth of Port De Grave, bought property in The Dock in 1816. I have numerous references for Batten's in Bareneed between 1828 and 1858 as schooner owners. There were Samuel, Thomas, John, John Jr., William and Benjamin as owners of the "Four Brothers", the "Two Brothers", "Sealer", "Oriental", "Adventure", "Swift", "Arrow", and the "Sea". From then to the beginning of the 1900's there was a migration of Battens out of the area principally to South River and Foxtrap on the south side of Conception Bay. It is possible to directly trace few of the Conception Bay South Battens back to the Port De Grave peninsula using headstone data from Foxtrap cemetaries. However, most of the good data, i.e. church records, were lost as the original Foxtrap church burnt.

While there are a multitude of references to link the Batten name to areas in the south of England, there are also some shaky but tantalizing hints that the Newfoundland Battens came directly from Jersey in the Channel Islands.

  1. Local lore in Port De Grave says that we came into the area from Jersey around 1700.
  2. Marian Turk, in her book " Quiet Adventurers in Canada", refers to a 1910 paper by Shortis and Munn entitled "Jerseymen in Newfoundland" which provides anecdotal evidence that a Batten family from Jersey was established in the Port De Grave area prior to the coming of John Guy in 1610. (See Shortis-Munn under stories on the main page.) Ms. Turk suggests the name might have come from the Jersey names of Baudin, Beaudin or even De Bartone.
  3. There is record of William Batten as co-owner of a fishing room with Elias Pico in Bareneed in 1782. The Pico's are known to have originated in the Channel Islands.
  4. I found one reference from a 1871 Census of Cornwall listing a John Richard Batten who was born in Jersey in 1834.

More recently I have been in contact with Mr. Ken Batten of Arberdeen who has done a One Name study of our surname. He has about ten entries for Batten's in the Channel Islands but suggests that the name originated from De Battyne, De Bethune, Bethune or Bathin in Flanders. I have heard from one other person who says that their Channel Island ancestry (not related to Batten) has Flemish links as well. There may be something to it.

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