The historical record holds many examples of Winnett or similar names. Below are listed some distinct family groups. While many may not have produced descendants with the name today, some may hold clues to the origins of present families.
Wynniatts of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire
This family appears in records from the earliest times in and around the villages of Dymock and Kempley. The Military Survey of Gloucestershire of 1522 mentions several examples, mostly spelt Wynnyet. The earliest mention in the parish registers is of a Thomas Wynnyett in 1538. The name is spelt in various forms: Wynniatt, Wynyat, Wynett, Wynyeyt, Wynniett, Wynneat, Winniet and Winett. However, by the 1700s the name is almost always spelt Winniatt. The name also appears in Woolhope, Herefordshire a few miles away.
Wenman Wynniatt was Lord of the Manor of Dymock around 1650 and was granted land in Stanton by John Izod. This began the connection of the Wynniatt family with the Cotswold parishes of Stanton, Stanway and Snowshill. Two Reginald Wynniatts (father and son) were vicars and significant property owners in the area between 1771 and 1838. The earliest mention of the name in the Snowshill registers is the marriage of John Winniat and Susanna Payne in 1691.
The suggestion in Welsh Surnames that the Winnetts of the border counties derive their name from "Gwynedd" would seem unlikely. As early as 1240 an Alexander de Wyngate is listed as a tenant of Newent priory, not far from Dymock (Dymock down the ages by Gethyn, 1966). In 1327 a Wyngate is recorded in Dymock itself (The taxpayers of medieval Gloucestershire by Franklin, 1993). This suggests the true origin of the name. Indeed, Reany et al give the Old English wind-geat (gate of the wind, or a pass between hills) as the origin of Wynniatt as well as Wingate. Windgate or similar names appear as landscape names in Devonshire and Gloucestershire, for instance Wyndezate near Iccomb, Gloucestershire (Saxon charters and field names of Gloucestershire 1935-36).
This family clearly gave rise to many Winnett families which have their origin in the west of England .
Winnetts of Worcestershire
The name appears quite frequently in and around the town of Droitwich in Worcestershire. The earliest mention in registers is that of a christening of Thomas Whinnet son of John in 1601. It may be that this family is also connected with the Gloucestershire Wynniatts, but it is interesting that the name often takes a Winnett form rather than Wynniatt from the earliest times.
Whinnetts of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire
The earliest mention of a similar name in Bedfordshire is the christening of George Waeinott son of Thomas in Leighton Buzzard in 1587. This family's name is variously spelt Wenott, Wenott, Wienott and Wienot. The clear ancestor of most Whinnetts of Bedfordshire is one Thomas Winnot whose daughter Elizabeth was born in Totternhoe in 1590. The family moved to nearby Eaton Bray, and variously spelt their name Wynnot, Whinnet, Winnet, Whinnitt, Winnatt, Wynnat, Winnot, Whinnett and Winnett. From 1800 onwards most families used Whinnett as their spelling.
Some Whinnetts in Kensworth on the border between Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire spelt their name Winnett in the 1881 census. A family also used Winnett in nearby Rickmansworth in the late 1700s.
Winnetts of Devonshire
John Winnett married Ellen Thorne in Barnstaple in 1628 and had 4 children. One, Stephen (b. 1639) had a large family and descendants can be traced to 1722. They also spelt their name Whinnett. The origins of this family are probably connected to the Devon name Windeatt. Indeed in Barnstaple in the 1500s the following names can be found: Windett, Wyndyet, Windeyeate. A website for the Windeatt name exists.
Winnetts of Norfolk
Several families in Norfolk used names such as Wynett and Whinnett. An early example is Margaret Wenneyt who married in Norwich in 1576. One family can be traced from the birth of William Whinitt in Paston in 1627 up to 1721. Another family in Norwich was that of Peter Whynot or Wynett whose children were born between 1636 and 1646. In 1837 a Winnett is named in a court case in the Norfolk circuit (The Times 8 March).
Winnetts in Lambeth and Westminster
In 1636 a Thomas Wynnett or Wynett is listed in the Index to the ancient testamentary records of Westminster, and his estate'sadministration was given to his widow "Gartrude". In 1626 Isabell Wynniatt daughter of Thomas was christened at St.Margaret's Westminster, probably referring to the same man. The use of the Gloucestershire spelling is interesting. Another daughter "Garterd" was buried at St.Margaret's in 1652, and Thomas's widow "Garterite" was buried at St. Margaret's in 1659 having lived in Kensington since at least 1645.
Sporadic references to the name can be found south of the Thames from Westminster in the 1600s. In 1635 a "Widdow Whinnett" is recorded as receiving funds from the church (Lambeth Churchwardens' Accounts 1504-1645 and Vestry Books 1610, Surrey Records Society v. 20, 1950). John Whinnet married Ann Kenington at St.Mary's Lambeth in 1653 and had at least 6 children. In 1663 John Whinnet or Whinnett of Lambeth Marsh is recorded as refusing to do his night watchman duty (Surrey Records Society v. 14, 1935). He also appears in the Surrey Hearth Tax of 1664 as John Winett of Lambeth Marsh (Surrey Records Society v. 17, 1940).
Later, Whinnetts appear in the records of St. Mary's Lambeth between 1705 and 1708. In the same parish in 1804 a Samuel Whinnett was christened. When Samuel's son James died in 1837, the name was spelt Winnett on the death certificate.
Winnetts in Greenwich
In 1658 an administration of estate was given to one Thomas Winnett, son of William, of East Greenwich. In 1632 a William Wynutt married Judith Smith at St. Alphage, Greenwich, probably the father of Thomas. "Wm. Whinet" is also listed in an assessment of Greenwich in 1644. William and Judith both died in 1657. The family does not appear in the Greenwich registers after 1657,or in the Hearth Tax of 1662.
Winnetts in Essex
People with similar names appear in Essex from early times. "Gullm. Wennote" was christened in Romford in 1565, son to Roger. In Chigwell in the 1590s, the family of Guie or Gwy Winnet/Winot is recorded.Further to the east near the coast, another family is recorded. William Whinnet was christened (1607) in Great Bromley near Colchester, as was Thomas Winnet in 1609, both sons to Thomas. William perhaps appears again with the modern spelling in 1633 when he married at Dovercourt near Harwich. The Hearth Tax of 1662 for Harwich mentions "Willus Whinnett". Robert Whinnett was a mariner of Harwich (will 1693).
The Scottish Winyet family
This name (as with the Wynniatt family above) derives from Windgate or Wingate. In the early 1500s a prominent Winyet family had lands in Glasgow. Ninian Winyet was a famous cleric. The name was also spelt Winzet and sometimes Winnett eg William Winnett who signed depositions concerning witchcraft in 1650 in Renfrew.
Other Irish Winnetts
At present, five separate families can be identified in Irish records. Thomas Winnett of "Ballyferrin co. Limerick" (will 1678), William Winnett of Kildare (probably Thomas's son), John Winnett of Killaloe, a family in Antrim, and another in Kilmore, co. Cavan.
Hugh Wynyatt and John Wyniett are mentioned in 1669 near Belfast, and John Wynott is listed as an elder in Carnmoney in 1686. In 1714 a John Wynet was christened at Carnmoney, son of Hugh. The latest mention in Carnmoney is the christening of Mary daughter of John Wynet in 1743.
There is evidence for a family at Kilmore, co. Cavan as well. Between 1715 and 1720, John and Elizabeth Winnett (also Wennett and Winnet) had three children, including a son Hugo. This name may link this family with that of Carnmoney.
Winnietts of Canada
This was a notable family in Nova Scotia descended from William Winniett (c. 1685-1741).Tradition had it that he was of Huguenot origin, but this view has been challenged. What is certain is that he arrived in Nova Scotia in 1710 with the English army which overthrew the French at Annapolis. He married and had a large family whose members were prominent in trade and the army. The name was often spelt Winnett as well. Another Canadian with the same name was James Winniett, of Brantford, Ontario, who was born in England in 1776, but was also a descendant of William Winniett. Again, his name is often used interchangeably with Winnett. Winniett Street in Woodstock, Ontario is supposedly named after him.
In 2008, a reference to William Winniett was found in a diary of a contemporary of his (Pole Cosby, a relative of one of Winniett's sons-in-law, transcribed in the Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society). It states that Winniett was actually from "near Kilcullenbridge co. Kildare", thus suggesting that he was a son of William Winnett of Kildare.
It appears that no descendants of William Winniett who carry the name exist today.