What's in a Name?

That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd—Shakespeare

The origin of the name "Latta" has been discussed and debated for many years. It's generally conceded that our ancestors lived in Scotland, with some later settling in Northern Ireland before coming to America and other countries. But, beyond that, there is no general agreement upon the origin of the name "Latta."

One Theory

From a document titled Genealogy of the Latta Family written in 1964 by Beatrice Latta Lewis of Terrace, California, and sent to the editor by Mrs. Vivian Setterberg: The origin of the name Latta is lost. It is a very old name and according to information furnished me by Frank F. Latta, can be traced back through history in Ireland, Scotland, England, Belgium, France, Spain, Arabia, Austria and Italy. In spite of its wide distribution it has never been a common name. Much of my information comes from Frank Latta of Pescadero, California, who has done extensive research on family history and has published a book on his branch of the family.

The word "latta" in Arabic means a cover or lid. As nearly all names were taken from a man's trade or objects he made, this may have been the origin of the name.

Micheal Latta, a Frenchman, was one of the leaders who captured the Bastille in 1789. He later came to America. Micheal Latta, an Austrian, a convert of Mohammedanism, was Generalissimo of the Turkish forces in the Crimean War. Two Spanish sailors of Austrian descent were on the Armada which invaded England in the time of Queen Elizabeth [I]. One was wrecked on the coast of Scotland and the other on the coast of Ireland. They were named Latta, and they settled there. Their descendants came to America.

William H. Latta of Pullman, Washington, did some research and offers the following:

In the old Duchy of Brabant, now a portion of Belgium, the name Latta means lath or lath splinter. A common Flemish form is "Latteur"—a Croatian form is "Lattas." The word "lath" in the older forms of a number of languages in that portion of Europe is given as "Latte," "Latta," and "Lata."

Next Theory

Merle W. Allen of Westminster CO writes:

Another interesting tidbit I picked up in a telephone conversation with Mr. Latta (here in Denver) was the origin of the name "Latta." The name "Latta" is Arabic in origin, meaning "Tribe of Benjamin." When this tribe was overrun by the Romans, the men were transported as mercenary soldiers to Ireland and England. Some intermarried and settled. In those areas the name "Latta" was used to mean "mercenary soldier."

Yet Another

Eileen Hook (eileenhook@aol.com) says that her grandmother's theory was that the name is French, and had been L'Atta, but had been shortened over time and the family's residence in Ireland.

More Yet

William Malcolm Latta of Nashville TN, writing in 1961, stated:

The name Latta is a very ancient one and comes from the Latin. The name as a family name originated during the time of the Roman Empire—possibly as far back as 300 BC. The Roman Empire is where the Lattas lived until after the coming of Christ.

Next we find evidence of the Lattas in Gaul—that part of Europe now known as France. Later they were in Normandy and Brabant—provinces of northern France. From France the Lattas fanned out over Europe and in 1066 when William the Conqueror invaded and captured England and Scotland there were Lattas with him.

The Latta family was given two coats-of-arms. One was given to the Brabant branch about 600 AD and the other was given in 1191 AD to a William Latta who lived in Scotland. This William Latta was made a baron of Scotland by King Richard I (the Lionhearted) who led the Third Crusade to the Holy Land in 1190, and William Latta was one of his warriors.

It is thought that all the Lattas in America are descendants of this William Latta, baron of Scotland. The Lattas lived in Scotland from about 1066 AD on. Even to this day there are many living there, mostly on the west coast in Ayrshire.

About the year 1620 AD several families by the name of Latta left Scotland and established homes in the northern counties of Ireland, where some still live today.

[For a recent analysis of information from historical records, see the article on this site titled The Latta Name: The British Connection by Geoffrey W. Latta.]