Ansteys Evolved From Other Surnames

by Gary. M. Ansteychief researcher of the Anstey story project.

Around 80% of ‘Anstey’, Ansty’, ‘Anstee’ and ‘Anstie’ alive today can trace their ‘Anstey’ origins to Hubert de Anesti, the originator of our surname in 1143, and thus they will find that their Anstey sub-branch connects to the main Anstey pedigree.

This means however that around 20% of ‘Anstey’, Ansty’, ‘Anstee’ and ‘Anstie’ alive today cannot trace their Anstey origins to Hubert de Anesti, but to another surname, normally ‘Anstis’ (or equivalent spelling such as ‘Anstice’ – with a single family thus far discovered who trace their origin to the surname ‘Austin’), and thus their Anstey sub-branch does not connect to the main Anstey pedigree.

To be clear, the surnames ‘Anstis’ and ‘Austin’ are not connected in the slightest to the surname ‘Anstey’, as is proven in our book ‘ANSTEY: The Devon and Somerset Branch‘. The surnames are completely distinct and separate, however for whatever reason, certain members of certain ‘Anstis’ and ‘Austin’ families in Devon, Somerset and Cornwall in the years between c1700 and c1840 decided to give their children the surname ‘Anstey’, despite themselves not being ‘Anstey’.

These ‘Anstey’ children, whose ancestry is ‘Anstis’ or ‘Austin’, then gave their new ‘Anstey’ surname to their children and so on down the generations. As such, some ‘Anstey’, Ansty’, ‘Anstee’ and ‘Anstie’ alive today will find that when they trace back their paternal line, it will be ‘Anstey’ (or equivalent spelling) until sometime between c1700 and c1840, and then it will suddenly switch to ‘Anstis’ or ‘Austin’ any further back in time than that.

One of the possible reasons behind this ‘switch’ is that certain ‘Anstis’ (or ‘Austin’) family members considered the surnames ‘Anstis’ (or ‘Austin’) and ‘Anstey’ to be interchangeable, with individuals from ‘Anstis’ (or ‘Austin’) families often using both ‘Anstis’ (or ‘Austin’) and ‘Anstey’ throughout their lives. A good example of this comes from the Chewton Mendip Ansteys, who began to evolve from ‘Anstis’ in the mid-1700s, where three generations of fairly well-to-do ‘Robert Anstis/Anstee’ interchangeably used the surnames Anstie, Ansty, Anstes, Anstice, Anstee and Anstis in official documentation to describe themselves (the elder ‘Robert Anstis’ invariably signed his name in accounts and Poor Law records as ‘Robert Anstee‘ despite giving many of his children the ‘Anstis’ surname at the same time). Eventually, at the end of the 1700s, the surname ‘Anstey’ became fixed for the Chewton Mendip sub-branch.

It is important to note that the vast majority of ‘Anstis’ (and ‘Austin’) families DID NOT consider the surnames interchangeable with ‘Anstey’, and ZERO genuine ‘Anstey’, Ansty’, ‘Anstee’ and ‘Anstie’ families considered them interchangeable. Hence the overwhelming majority of ‘Anstis’ (and ‘Austin’) families remained ‘Anstis’ (and ‘Austin’) from generation to generation, and EVERY SINGLE ‘Anstey’, Ansty’, ‘Anstee’ and ‘Anstie’ family to our knowledge retained the ‘Anstey’ (or ‘Ansty’, ‘Anstee’ or ‘Anstie’) surname through the generations.

Another reason for the ‘switch’ in surnames may well come from the fact that generally speaking the ‘Anstey’, Ansty’, ‘Anstee’ and ‘Anstie’ descendants of Hubert de Anesti, the originator of our surname in 1143, were of a relatively high class in the period pre-1850. ‘Anstis’ in the main were of lower class during that period, hence they could have switched to ‘Anstey’ (or equivalent) to try and better their status and position in society. However we need to be very careful with this generalisation, because certain ‘Anstis’ families were actually of very elevated class, hence it would probably be more accurate to consider ‘Anstis’ as three completely separate ‘class’ groupings, namely the high class ‘Cornwall Anstis’, the middle class ‘Somerset Anstice’ and the low class ‘Devon Anstis’. With the surname ‘Austin’, being so common, we can make no such class generalisations.

Yet another reason for the ‘switch’ in surnames could well be simply that the way ‘Anstis’ was pronounced in previous times was quite similar to how ‘Anstey’ was pronounced, and the spelling, especially to the (generally speaking) illiterate ‘Anstis’ was simply not important until literacy became more widespread in the 1800s. However on that note, it would have been more likely that they would have spelt their surname ‘Anstie’ (one letter change from Anstis) rather than ‘Anstey’ (two letter change from ‘Anstey’). Given that the overwhelming majority of Ansteys in Devon and Somerset spelt the name ‘Anstey’ at the time, this does lean towards the suggestion that ‘Anstis’ were attempting to emulate the higher class ‘Anstey’ families living around them.

However the ‘Anstey’ spelling of ‘Anstis’ could equally be explained by the fact that ‘East Anstey’ and ‘West Anstey’ were fairly well known villages in Devon, which could have been what caused the morphing of the spelling for certain ‘Anstis’ families.

We could go on producing argument, counter-argument and hypothesis – there is probably no ‘catch all’ reason for the switch in surnames from ‘Anstis’ (or ‘Austin’) to ‘Anstey’, Ansty’, ‘Anstee’ and ‘Anstie’, each sub-branch listed below probably had their own reasons for the switch, likely being a combination of the above.

Note: we are gradually adding individual ‘Anstey’ biographies to this website project – click on the relevant sub-branch link below for a listing of biographies currently documented for that sub-branch, for which access can be purchased via the Anstey Shop. If an ‘Anstey’ biography has been written and uploaded, it will have a 3 or 4 character code next to it (2 letters for the sub-branch code followed by 1 or 2 digits identifying the ‘Anstey’ individual within that sub-branch). For example my fellow ‘Anstey’ researcher Thomas John Edmund Anstey (Tom) can be found in the Stoke Gifford Anstey sub-branch listing as code ‘SG 30’

The ‘Anstey’ sub-branches which switched from other surnames (namely ‘Anstis’ or ‘Austin’) that we have uploaded to this ‘Anstey Story‘ project thus far are as follows:

Some families have changed their surname to ‘Anstey’ in more recent times, so have not yet had time to become an official ‘sub-branch’

For example see the South Africa Anstey page where we have found a family that changed their name to ‘Anstey’ in the early 1900s.

Another is Thomas Ansty (b 1847) – see the Bristol page Further Details #6.

Another is Thomas Anstey (b c1858 Leominster)

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