Wednesday, May 2, 2012



Hyten, Heighton, Hiton, Hiten, Hyton, Highton.  No matter what the spelling, they are all pronounced the same. 

You leave a phone message; "Tell him that Bob Hyten called."   The voice on the other end says, "How do you spell Hyten?"  What would you say if you could not read or write as was the case with most people before 1800?  It would then be up to the person writing the message to decide how to spell Hyten. To him any of the above spellings could be right.

Now you are in the shoes of those of us who have sought the origins of the HYTEN family.  The HYTEN family has been in the United States at least since the 1700's. That was a time before it was common for everyone to  read and write.  Every one of those spellings above was used for the name of a person that I can definitely tie to the family tree.  One could not even begin to guess how many people out there who now spell their names differently might have descended from those we have at the head of our HYTEN family tree. 

It appears fairly certain that the H-Y-T-E-N spelling became the standard around 1800 when the sons of Josiah Heighton adopted the HYTEN spelling.  Legal documents of Josiah Heighton exist but his signature is an "X" indicating he could neither read nor write.  It is in a manuscript by Arthur Leslie Keith, The Caywood Family, which traces the family of Josiah's wife, Rebecca Caywood, that the spelling HYTEN appears.  Keith's manuscript first lists Josiah Heighton and his wife Rebecca and then all further references to their children are in the name HYTEN.  This information tracing the Caywood family  back to the 1600s in Maryland is in the Newberry Library  in Chicago. 
To Illustrate how these various spellings can perpetuate, Josiah's son William Caywood Hyten was a resident of Montgomery County, Kentucky near Mt. Sterling in the early 1800's.  The 1814, 1815, and 1816 census/tax rolls list his name successively as Highton, Hiton, and Hyton even though there is absolutely no doubt that it is the same man. 
At about the same time the names Heton  and Hyton and Hiten  appear on the rolls of nearby counties.  The H-I-T-E-N spelling begins forty miles away in Harrison County, KY, near Cynthiana in the 1820s. While there is little doubt in my mind that HITENs share common ancestors with the HYTENs, I am not yet able to absolutely prove it.

Likewise I can not say for sure exactly what nationality the HYTEN name is.  In my immediate family most people felt that our origins were in England.  Many other HYTENs think they are German.  My guess would be that both main theories could be at least partially right.  In the Middle Ages many battles were fought to consolidate the power of the English throne. Often German mercenaries were brought in to aid one side or the other.  Many of these soldiers stayed on in England when they finished fighting and eventually became English citizens.  HYTEN could very well be an Anglicized version of a German name like Heighton.  Certainly the name Heighton looks Germanic.
With that said, I must report that in 1988 just a month before completing the Second Edition of the book, HYTEN: An American Family, Becky Ingram gave me a transcription of a manuscript written by her great-grandfather, William Henry Hyten, in which he states that his grandfather, who would have been Josiah Heighton,  came from Scotland as a child. 
At first I doubted that because the name HYTEN didn’t sound Scottish to me. Since then I discovered the Scottish clans named Aiton and Ayton and I‘ve heard Scots speak often enough to realize that when spoken by a Scot, Hyten and Ayton sound very much alike.  Strengthening the  theory is the fact that the area in Maryland in which our Hyten family first appeared in the records was a prime destination of Scotch-Irish immigrants. 

There are several Heighton families in mid-1800 censuses whose family head lists his place of birth as England.  While this at least establishes that Heighton is an English name, none of these families appear to be related to us.  Don Heighton, 8024 Arlie Dr., N. Richland Hill, TX, 76180, has extensively researched the Heighton name going all the way back to Thomas Heighton (1550-1622) in England. While he too has unconnected and dead-end branches, we have not been able to come even close to tying HYTENs to Heightons.

The book, Surnames of the United Kingdom, lists Hyton about which it says: "Hyton (Eng.) Bel. to Hyton, or Dweller at High Enclosure or Farmstead [ME hy, oe high; high+ME-ton, OE tun; enclosure]."  The book Surnames of Scotland includes the names Hayton and Heiton as well as Aiken, Aitken, and Atian. I cannot find any other possible matches in similar books of names for Germany or Wales.

The name Hyden will repeatedly surface during this writing.  While it is possible that HYTENs came to America as Hydens, I feel certain in saying that in America there is a Hyden family separate from the HYTENs.  Gene Hyden, P.O. Box 6575, New Orleans, LA, 70174, has helped me to identify individual census records as Hyden not HYTEN records. We have even been able to identify two HYTEN and two HITEN family branches as actually being Hyden. His meticulous research charts Hydens from Lee County, Virginia, to Tennessee and then throughout the country. My research plots the HYTENs from Maryland to Kentucky and westward.  While it is possible that both groups are from the same original stock back in Europe, the families seem to have remained separate in the United States.

 In attempting to tie the HYTEN and HITEN families to Scotch-Irish origins, I have contacted sources in Dublin, Belfast, and even South Africa without success. It would now appear that the only way that might be accomplished is by searching individual church records in Northern Ireland. These records are neither indexed nor computerized. They are ancient records in sometimes illegible script. If one had the time it would still be likely that he could read right past the name even if it is spelled HYTEN. It’s not likely this task will ever be undertaken. The hunt for Scotch-Irish roots will probably not be able to proceed until these individual church records have been codified.

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