Ancient & Current History of "Baygents"

Brief History of the ORIGIN of the surname

Last Update:  1/6/2018


A possible first known record of the surname (different spelling) was as a soldier who fought in the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066.  This conquest and occupation of England was done by a combination of Normans, Bretons, and Francs, all serving as coordinated soldier forces of the Duke of Normandy (William).  William was later crowned as King of England and referred as "William the Conqueror".  Due to the many independent kingdoms, and regarding the expanding lands and shifting borders over many years, it was eventually broken up and separated into parts of England and France.  The main remaining small territory that retained the name "Normandy" was integrated into France in 1204.  It's because of the current day borders that the surname is often thought to appear as originating in England or France, with specific family locations unclear.  The surname was thought to be of Normandy origins; however, other origins refer it as Anglo-Saxon.  Officially, all English monarchs after 1066, claim their prior ancestry from the Normans (who were originally Scandanavian Vikings).  The soldier's name in the Battle of Hastings has been lost so this early mentioning of the soldier's surname recording can only be considered a possibility.  If information sources become discovered, this portion will be updated.


So far, the earliest confirmed sourced use of the surname is after the Anglo-Saxon era (a period of 450-1066 AD).  The Anglo-Saxons were originally of Teutonic tribes (including peoples from northern Germany and southern Scandinavia).  They were the peoples who defeated Roman rule.  England did not yet exist as a country of a single kingdom.  The Normans defeated the Anglo-Saxons in 1066 so, the surname is considered as either Anglo-Saxon or of Norman origins, depending on how you look at.  Both are correct; however, the Anglo-Saxons is the preferred reference since the Normans were an occupying force when it is presumed the early surnamed families pre-existed before the Battle of Hastings.


The surname, of the spelling as "Besant", was recorded in 1168 AD, which is after the end of the Anglo-Saxon era.  Lefwin Besant was a notable financier in the county of Middlesex, in London, England.


The next known specific record was in 1194, when Robert Besant was the leading law enforcement officer (Sheriff) of London.


The families continued prominence in business and local government for many ages afterward in London.


Spelling Variations of the surname


The surname spread (and spelling changes) across countries such as England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, US, and many others.

There are many spelling variants of the name "Baygents", related to the same family name and heritage. Spellings sometimes were changed accidentally or on purpose.  Some reasons were due to spelling errors, copying entries errors, phoenetics sounding vs spelling differences, log misreadings, for children protections, or sometimes for entire families protections against extremism, persecution, or violence of war.


Research shows these family name spellings for the surname:

BAIGENT (in England)

BAIGENTS (in New Zealand)

BAGEANT (in England, US); some descendants shown as changed to BAGENT

BAGENT, some descendants shown as changed from BAGEANT

BAGEANTS (in England)

BAJENTS (in England)





BEAGENT; some descendants shown as changed from BEGENT



BEDGENT; some descendants shown as changed to BEGENT


BEGENTS (in France, Canada, South Australia, & Tasmania)

BEJENT; some descendants shown as changed from BEGENT


BESANT (in England)






Known Migrations of the surname

While the surname was also existing in France, in the 15th and 16th centuries, it is thought that "Begents" families began to leave France to come to England due to the extremism experienced during various religious uprisings during that era, where tens of thousands of people were killed. Power and persecution shifted back and forth between Protestants and Catholics. 

There are also records showing many coming from England to the US in the 1700s and 1800s (only a few as early as 16th century).  There are records in the 1800s in the US showing emigrated parents with children's last names, e.g., Begent/Begents being changed to "Baygents". 

Around the period of the American Civil War, due to the extreme turmoil, there was a surge that migrated from the US to Canada.


Meaning of the surname

The earliest recorded spelling of the surname was "Besant", "Bezant", or "Beasant", which comes from an old French word "besant", which, in turn, was derived from the Latin term "byzantius aureus".  The "byzantius" or "bezant" was a gold coin named after the city of Byzantium (ancient name in BC, later named 'Constantinople' in 330 AD).  Byzantion was originally a Greek colony founded by Byzas (son of King Nisos of Megara), in 667 BC, and later named as Byzantium.  He married Fidalea, daughter of King Varvizos (Varvisios) of Thrace.  Due to its unique location on the shore side facing Europe, it flourished for ages and became a central point of trade and rule.  The "byzantius" or "bezant" was a gold coin that was initially minted there.  The terms became known later across Europe as meaning the circle or disk represented in a coat of arms (known as a 'roundel').  Names, being for occupational or geographical references, have had countless interpretations of possibilities, including these three popular ones:  to be the surname of a minter of coins, the location of minting, or as a nickname for someone rich in cash. The historical conveyance repeatedly shows the surname to be a local (English) reference to a person who was an immigrant from Byzantium (source: "A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames", dated 1901, p.97).


Individual Historic Notables (basic chronological order)

William Bageant, Sr.:  (Christened 1727 in Folkestone, Kent, England).  Migrated to Fairfax County, Virginia, US.  Served under Colonel George Washington, according to a registered entry when William was 31 years old.  Was noted that he was in the Virginia Regiment and worked in artillery.  There also is another record where his last name was spelled "Bagent".  And many subsequent generations were named Bagent.

William Henry Besant:  (1 November 1828 – 2 June 1917) was a British mathematician, brother of novelist Walter Besant.

Sir Walter Besant:  (14 August 1836 – 9 June 1901), was a novelist and historian. William Henry Besant was his brother, and another brother, Frank, was the husband of Annie Besant.

Annie Besant:  (1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933) was a British socialist, theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule.


Individual Current Notables (basic chronological order)


Gerry Baygents (US):  as of 2017, Adjunct Instructor & PhD Candidate, University of Missouri, Dept. of Mathematics & Statistics.  Georgia Southern University, BS in Mathematics, magna cum laude.


Dr. James C. Baygents (US):  as of 2018, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs,  University of Arizona, Dept. of Chemical & Environmental Engineering


Ronald Baygents (US):  Former Chair, National Press Club




Genealogical Sites (surname)


Genealogical Sites (individual)


Information Extras