By Dorothy Dean Viets Schell, Gateway Press, Baltimore, 1990



Name Origin and Spelling


Among the nations of modern Europe, family names may in some cases be traced back as far as the tenth century. In early times each individual bore one name only, which, after the coming of Christianity, was usually given at baptism. The surname or overname (so called from the fact that it was at first written over the given name) like most innovations came into general use slowly.

When surnames came into use they were often found ready at hand in the occupation, place of residence, or some characteristic of the persons to whom they were given. The origin of such names as Tanner, Carpenter, and Smith needs no explanation. Some names had their origin in words no longer in use in common speech or in a forgotten dialect, and are more difficult to trace.

The origin of the name Viets may be looked for among the dialects included under the general term German or Teutonic. It seems probable, if not certain, that this name is from an old Teutonic given name Veit or Viet, which corresponds with the common English name Guy, a shorter form of Guido and of the same origin and meaning as the word guide.

Adelung, in his Dictionary of the High German Dialect gives the following: Veit, Latin Vitus, a man's given name of ancient German origin, and contracted from Guido.

Calisch, an eminent scholar in Holland, informs us that Veit and Guy are corresponding Dutch and English forms of the same name.

The original meaning of the word Viet can only be inferred from the meanings of kindred words. The Gothic vitan, meaning to take heed; the Anglo-Saxon witan, to know; the English wit, the German witz, meaning wit, acuteness, good sense; the Latin video, to see; and the English guide are all akin, both in form and meaning.

The word Viet came to be used as a boy's given name, the original meaning of the word being at length lost sight of. This name gained wide currency from the fact that it was borne by a distinguished saint who died a boy martyr in the reign of Diocletian in the fourth century, known in Germany as Saint Veit, or Viet; in Latin, St. Vitus. Though he died in youth, such was his fame for good works that he became the Patron Saint of Saxony and Bohemia and throughout Germany was regarded in the popular superstition as one of the fourteen helpers in time of need. Evidence of the esteem in which he was held is seen in names of places, there being as many as four towns named St. Veit, also a St. Veitsberg and a St. Veit's mountain, and in Bavaria a place named Veitshocheim; while on the borders of Holland and Germany there is said to be a place called Veit's Flat. From the belief that this saint could cure the dancing malady, the disease came to be called St. Vitus' dance; in Germany Veitstanz. His day on the calendar was June 15th, hence the garden bean which began to be edible about this time, was called in some regions the Veits bean. Among old German proverbs are: "Holy St. Veit, wake me in time, wake me neither too early nor too late; wake me when it strikes five." and "Rai: on St. Veit's day brings a fruitful year."

The name St. Veit is sometimes spelled St. Viet in German, and in the high German of the Middle Ages was pronounced the same as Viet in Modern German.

Veit or Viet, in use for centuries as a common name, came at length to be applied as the surname of a family. How this came about is a matter of conjecture. St. was dropped from the name in the course of time and a final s added. In modern high German the correct spelling of the name as pronounce it is Viet and Viets, for ie in modern German is pronounced ee while ei is pronounced i.

The father of John and Henry Viets spelled his name John Viet, or Viett, while in the records of the old Dutch Church in New York his name is written Veet. On the same records is also recorded the name of one Margrita Veets, who was sponsor at a baptism in 1702 and again in 1734. On the gravestone of widow of Dr. John in Simsbury, the name is written Vets. This is the phonetic spelling of some stonecutter, as Phelps is sometimes spelled Felps in old records. John and Henry, the sons of Dr. John, added s to the name Viett, as the father wrote it, making it Vietts. A few years later one twas dropped, and the name since about 1750 has been written Viets by the descendants of John and Henry, with few exceptions. [Several families in Ohio spell it Veits.] The fact that this is the spelling of the name in public and family records, and in the almost unvarying usage of branches of the family widely separated from Nova   Scotia to California, is good reason for preserving it without change.

Dr. Henry Viets of Boston, who visited Holland some years ago, met a Jan Viets who told him that he never heard the name outside of Holland - that in the vicinity where he lived there were many of the name. Also at the time of Princess (later Queen) Juliana's sojourn in Ottawa during World War II, a member of her household informed Robert Viets who lived close by that there were many "Wietses" in the Netherlands.

Family Characteristics

One of the speakers at a Viets' reunion named characteristics of the family as honesty, modesty, and oddity. The family is characterized by industrious and home-abiding qualities and by abhorrence of vice and crime. Those of this name are, as a rule, deliberate, just, and fair minded.

Historical View

Simsbury was settled about 1664 and became a town in 1670. The first settler was John Griffin, who came there to manufacture tar and turpentine from the pine woods. In 1786 the northern half of Simsbury was set off as a separate town under the name of Granby, and included the district of old Simsbury known as “The Falls.” In 1859 East Granby was set off from Granby. The center lies east of the mountain. The district known as "The Falls" is west of the mountain in the extreme southwestern part of the town, and enjoys the eminence of being the earliest settled portion of East Granby, as it was of the mother town of Simsbury. In 1709 there were but two families living within the limits of the present town of East Granby, and these were the families of John Griffin and Joshua Holcomb, both living at the Falls. The next year, 1710, marked the advent of Dr. John Viets, who settled at the Falls, then a part of Simsbury. From his two sons have sprung all of the Viets' name in Connecticut, probably in New England, and most of those in the entire United States.

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