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Ancient History of the Surname Blight

The Border region of England and Scotland produced some of the most illustrious family names the world has ever known, names such as Armstrong, Nixon, Graham, Bell, Carson, Hume, Irving, Rutherford and so and included in this group is the surname BLIGHT.

     Professional analysts have researched the history of lowland Scotland and northern England, including many private collections of genealogical records, the Inquisitio, the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, the Ragman Rolls, The Hearth Rolls, the Domesday Book, parish cartularies, baptismals, and tax rolls and revealed that the first record of the name BLIGHT was found in Berwickshire where they were seated from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.

    Different spellings of the name were found in the archives, each alternate linked to the root source of the surname.  Your name, BLIGHT, occurred in many references, from time to time the surname was spelt Blythe, Bllyt, Blytht, Blyithe, Blith, Blyth, Blitht, Blaith, and these changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son.  Scribes and church officials recorded the name from its sound, sometimes changing the spelling on each occasion of the same person's birth, death or marriage.

    The family name BLIGHT is believed to be descended originally from the Strathclyde Britons.  This ancient, founding race of the north were a mixture of Gaelic/Celts whose original territories ranged from Lancashire in the south, northward to the south bank of the River Clyde in Scotland.  From 400 A.D. to 900 A.D. their territory was overrun firstly by the Irish Gaels, then the Angles from the east, and finally the Picts and Dalriadans from the north.  However, their basic culture remained relatively undisturbed.  By 1000 A.D., the race had formed into discernible Clans and families, perhaps some of the first evidence of the family structure in Britain.

    By the 16th and 17th centuries many of our modern family names descended directly from this ancient race, including BLIGHT.  Tracing its ancient development, the name BLIGHT was found in Berwickshire where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated at Blyth in the lordship of Lauderdale in that shire.  The first on record was of William de Blyth of Chirnesyde in Berwickshire who represented the family and rendered homage to King Edward I of England on his brief conquest of Scotland in 1296.  The Blyths a deeply rooted border clan of some stature who were disbanded in 1603 with the union of the King of England with Scotland, and many moved south to England and they acquired Weasenham Hall in Norfolk, and Burnham in that same county; they also settled at a place called Blyth in Warwickshire; and in Lincolnshire, and even as far westward as Cornwall.  Meanwhile Richard Blyth was M.P. for Dundee in Scottish Parliament in 1567.  Notable amongst the family at this time was John Blyth, Bishop of Salisbury; Geoffrey Blyth, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry; Esther Faa Blyth was the late "Queen" of the Border Gypsies, she died in 1883.

    The border of England and Scotland was created on a line from Carlisle to Berwick in the East.  Many Strathclyde families straddled the border but continued to be unified clans, powers unto themselves.

    After 1000 A.D., border life was in turmoil.  In 1246, 6 Chiefs from the Scottish side and 6 from the English side met at Carlisle and produced a set of laws governing all the border Clans.  These were unlike any laws prevailing in England or Scotland or, for that matter, anywhere else in the world.  For example, it was a far greater offence to refuse to help a neighbour recover his property, wife, sheep, cattle or horses than it was to steal them in the first place.  Hence the expression 'Hot Trod', or, a hot pursuit, from which we get the modern 'Hot to trot'.  For refusal of assistance during a 'Hot Trod', a person could be hanged on the instant, without trial.  Frequently, the descendants of these clans or families apologetically refer to themselves as being descended from 'cattle or horse thieves' when, in fact, it was an accepted code of life on the border.

    In 1603, the Union of the Scottish and English crowns became reality under King James VI of Scotland, who was also crowned King James 1st of England.  The Crown dispersed these 'unruly border clans', clans which had served loyally in the defence of each side.  The unification of the governments was threatened and it was imperative that the old 'border code' should be broken up.  Hence, the Border Clans were banished to England, northern Scotland and to Ireland.  Some were outlawed directly to Ireland, the Colonies and the New World.

    Some of the Border Clans settled in Northern Ireland, transferred between 1650 and 1700 with grants of land provided they 'undertook' to remain protestant.  Hence they became known as the 'Undertakers'.  Many became proudly Irish.  In Ireland they assumed the name of Bligh and settled in Connacht, but this should note be confused with the separate name of Bligh of Cornwall, England.

    Many were dissatisfied with life in Ireland, and sought a more rewarding life.  They looked to the New World and sailed aboard the 'White Sails' an armada of sailing ships such as the Hector, the Rambler, and the Dove which struggled across the stormy Atlantic.  Some ships lost 30 or 40% of their passenger list, migrants who were buried at sea having died from diseases and the elements.

    In North America, some of the first migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the family name BLIGHT and their spelling variants were John Blyth who settled in Virginia in 1652 with his wife Mary; Sarah Blyth arrived in Jamaica in 1774 with her husband John; Anne, George, John, Margaret, Samuel Blythe all settled in Charleston Mass. in 1820.  The migrants formed wagon trains westward, moving to the prairies or the west coast.  During the American War of Independence those that remained loyal to the Crown moved north into Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.

    There were many notable contemporaries of this name BLIGHT, Charles Blyth, Company Director; Baron Blyth; James Blyth, Judge; Wilfred Blyth, Director.

    The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was:
        Ermine (white and black) three red bucks with gold horns
    The ancient family motto for this distinguished name is:c
        "In Veritas Victoria"