Ansteys Evolved From Other Surnames

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

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

A small number of ‘Anstey’, Ansty’, ‘Anstee’ and ‘Anstie’ alive today however cannot trace their Anstey origins to Hubert de Anstey, 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 overall 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 c1710 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 c1710 and c1840, and then it will suddenly switch to ‘Anstis’ or ‘Austin’ any further back in time than that.

One of the 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 Anstey, 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.

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.

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

Note: We need to be extremely careful with certain places, which had more than one completely distinct and unconnected ‘Anstey’, Ansty’, ‘Anstee’ or ‘Anstie’ sub-branch emanating from them. For example Witheridge in Devon had both a South West Peninsula Anstey sub-branch and an ‘Anstey evolved from Anstis‘ sub-branch living there alongside each other at the same time.

Further Note: See also the South Africa Anstey page where we have found a family that changed their name to ‘Anstey’ in the early 1900s.

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