Elsden… and other names

My name Elsden, is possibly of Scandinavian origin; there is a village in Northumbria called Elsdon, but we have no connection with that. Our Elsdens came from Norfolk; my dad always said we came from Sweden and arrived at King’s Lyne a sea port on the River Ouse where it flows into the Wash. he reckoned we were pirates or pilots, maybe both! The family grew and spread and some Elsdens moved through Norfolk to Suffolk and Essex, moving from water to land as agricultural labourers. With the coming of the railways in the nineteenth century, we moved off the land and onto the metal roads in a variety of different jobs.

We don’t really know what Elsden means, some ‘experts say it comes from Ell’s dene (valley)/tun (farmstead) … I’m not convinced of that but it’s only a gut-feeling! I still don’t know where it comes from or what it means, and still have a sort of trust in my dad’s old story.

I’ve mentioned before that for many people, their surname gives some indication of what work or craft  a distant ancestor had, and there are loads of examples – Wikipedia gives 564!  Just looking quickly through my Facebook friends I find a weaver,  cook,  deacon (Deakin), seller (Sellers), turner, clerk (Clark/Clarke), buckler, miller, mason, bowman, walker, barker, slaughter, squire, knight  and fisher!

Surnames which have an ‘s’ at the end might indicate that the name was originally a patronymic, someone’s son, or that it denoted who someone worked for, a William might have been someone’s master rather than his or her father. Again looking through my Facebook friends I can find plenty of examples: Evans, Higgins, Collins, Wilks, Peters, Roberts, Sanders, Grimes, Simons, Watts… as well as the names with ‘son’ at the end, including Dawson, Simpson, Gibson and Johnson.

Descriptions of people or their characteristics based on nick names also have developed into surnames; did the first Mr White/Whiteside, Mr Brown and Mr Grey have white, brown and grey hair respectively? … and Mr Green> A green hat or maybe he lived by the green! What about Mr Hardman, was he a tough guy?

Place names are also attached to people, Nelson is in Lancashire and there are many places called Barton all over the place! Did Mr Parker live near a park, and Mr Holt live near woodland (a holt is a group of tree) or was he from Holt in Norfolk? Was Mr Mepham from Meopham, Mr Preston from Preston and Mr Scott from Scotland? Was Mr Southard from the south?

There are other specific origins of names, and historically we have had many people from other countries bringing their names with them; some have changed and modified, some have stayed he same, but these days, with so many people from many different parts of the world the range of names is even wider and more interesting than ever!



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