Hello, I’ve recently stumbled upon your page as I’m searching for more information regarding my grandmothers ancestry line of Eaton’s. I live in America and half of my cousins I’ve discovered via Ancestry.com, go by the surname Aiton, which I believed to be a phonetic misspelling of the name. I would love to know more about the Eaton origins, and I’m so glad I happened to find you. I’ll tell my other Eaton/Aiton cousins as well. I’m sure they would love to connect with distant cousins, just as much as I do! Also, has there been any dna research done among the group? I’ve tested with both Ancestry and 23&me, and also uploaded to MyHeritage, and Gedmatch. Hope to hear from you soon! Log in to Reply
Hello, I’ve recently stumbled upon your page as I’m searching for more information regarding my grandmothers ancestry line of Eaton’s. I live in America and half of my cousins I’ve discovered via Ancestry.com, go by the surname Aiton, which I believed to be a phonetic misspelling of the name. I would love to know more about the Eaton origins, and I’m so glad I happened to find you. I’ll tell my other Eaton/Aiton cousins as well. I’m sure they would love to connect with distant cousins, just as much as I do! Also, has there been any dna research done among the group? I’ve tested with both Ancestry and 23&me, and also uploaded to MyHeritage, and Gedmatch.
Hope to hear from you soon!
Our convenor, David Eaton, has given some background to the surnames of Aiton and Eaton:
Both names can be found in different parts of the British isles and I am sure that the people with these names don’t all stem from a single ancestor, and indeed the names themselves may be derived from different sources in different parts of the country. However what I can give you is what is known regarding the names in a Scottish context so I hope your Eaton grandmother was of Scottish extraction (DNA may help here).
When the Ayton Family Society was formed some Ayton’s wondered why it would include Eaton’s, they soon found the origin of the names in Scotland were derived from the same source, a place in what was Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders. Today Ayton is a parish with a village and an impressive large baronial castle (a replacement for an important medieval castle) in a very pleasant rural area of the country. It is a few miles inland from the seaside town of Eyemouth where the river Eye (properly called the Eye Water) runs into the North Sea. Ayton is situated on a bend of this river so the origin of the placename here comes from a fortified farm (ton) situated on the bend of the Eye Water (Eye). I presume that Eaton/Ayton’s in other parts of the U.K. have a similar origin.
When people started using surnames it was common for them to be called after their occupation, or the colour of their hair, or the place where they stayed or came from. We come under the last category here. Spelling is of course a relatively modern concept so there are many variations to the name, the standardized one becoming Ayton probably because the family who owned the land pronounced their name with an A rather than an E.
In these early times we think of the country being governed by the king and his important nobles, but the church was probably just as powerful in controlling the people. Early documents show that the Ayton’s were one of a group of families who came under the control of the Prior of Coldingham. Documents held by Durham Cathedral, which was Coldingham Priory’s mother church, show the family held the feu for their land from the Priory as early as 1166-1182.
The earliest known progenitors of the family are Suanus de Eiton, also given as Sweyn de Ayton, and Willemus de Ayton. W. F. Skene, who was Historiographer for Scotland, in 1846 drew up a tree from these charters of the earliest recorded members of the family. It shows Suanus de Eitona with three sons, Stephanus de Eiton, Helvas de Eiton and Dolphinus de Eiton. There are no descendants shown for Stephanus; Helvas is shown with three sons, Johannes de Ayton, Rogerus de Ayton and Ricardus (note spelling already changed to Ayton). From this tree we find that Johannes de Ayton had a son Adam de Ayton who had a son William de Ayton who had two sons John de Ayton and Adam de Ayton. Adam is shown to have had a son John de Ayton who had a son Adam de Ayton. The final member shown on this tree is Adam’s son, another John de Ayton who resigned his lands of Ayton and Whytfield in 1472. Now back to Dolphinus de Eiton. He is shown with two sons Adam de Ayton and Ingelramus. Adam is then shown with a son Walter de Ayton who had a son Adam de Ayton who had a son John de Ayton; no offspring are shown for Ingelramus. The other original family is that of Willemus de Ayton, he is shown with two sons Waldevus and Magister Merlin (Magister usually means holder of a degree). There are no offspring shown for Waldevus but Magister Merlin is shown to have Mauritius de Ayton and Reginaldus. Again no children are shown for Reginaldus but Mauritius is shown with two daughters and one son, the daughters are Mariota, who married John de Jeddewarde and Sibilla and the son was Robert. I suggest that if you find this early history of any interest it will be easier to understand if you get a piece of paper and write them out in conventional tree form. Also some of the names are shown in the Latinised form as used on the early charters but they are not difficult to transfer to modern English.
Here in Scotland there are distinct groups of Ayton’s. When the Ayton’s of Ayton in Berwickshire came to an end, through an heiress, the heiresses uncle became the chief of the name. He held land in the county of Fife which was eventually renamed Ayton. Various of his descendants also became landed gentry in Fife, descendants of this family spell their name Aytoun. I note that you give the Aiton version of the name in your email, this version has been used for a very long time by families living in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire in the west of Scotland. The people with this version of the name have a completely different DNA to the people descended from the Aytoun’s from Fife/Berwickshire. We do not know if the original Suanus de Eiton and Willemus de Ayton, as shown on W. F. Skene’s tree, were close relations or simply two seperate families living in Eyeton/Ayton. If the second is the case the Aiton’s from the west of Scotland may be descended from Willemus.
As I said above, standard spelling is a relatively modern thing, not only that but even well into the eighteen hundreds, most common people could not read or write so names on birth, marriage and death certificates would be recorded for these people by the registrar as he heard them spoken. A good example of this is the family of my great grandfather. Although great grandfather could sign his name I am not sure if he could really read or write, on different birth certificates of his numerous family he spells Eaton in different ways, e.g. Eatton. What I am sure of is that his wife was illiterate, of all the children only one daughter’s birth was registered by her and she signed with a X. What makes this certificate interesting is that the daughter is the only member of the family recorded as an Ayton at birth, and not an Eaton. This shows two things, firstly my great grandmother’s accent must have made the registrar think she was an Ayton and secondly as she could not read she was not capable of informing the registrar of the error.
Although the Ayton Family Society is a Scottish society it has had members from Scotland, England, Wales, U.S.A., Canada, France, The Netherlands, Luxemburg, New Zealand and Australia, so if you are interested in joining we will be pleased to welcome you.