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Austin was the English vernacular form of the Roman Augustine name which was born by the fifth century St. Augustine of Hippo and by another St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury who died in 605. The French contraction of the name was Agustin and this probably further contracted in England to Austin.
St. Augustine of Hippo had formulated a set of rules or canons for living an austere, monastic life. One of these orders, the Order of St. Augustine founded in England in 1256, became known as the
Augustine Canons. The name was later shortened to the Austin Canons and the Austin Friars. Austin and its variant Austen became surnames.

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England. The Austin name appeared at an early time in the west country, although the name here might also have been Brasuter. John Austin was the mayor of Totnes in Devon in 1358 and his son Henry its MP in 1410 and 1413.

Austen was to be found later in Devon and in Cornwall; while Austins extended into northern Dorset. The Austin name was also prominent at Wotton-under-Edge near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire where they were clothiers. Humphrey Austin of Newark Park was mayor of Wotton in 1752.

SE England. Most Austins and Austens were to be found in London and the southeast (although the Austin name did spread around much more widely than the Austen name). The Austin Friars were in fact to be found in London where they remained until the dissolution of the friary in 1538. Kent seems to have been the principal origin of those surnamed Austen.

Records for one Austin family were said to have begun at Horsmonden in Kent around the year 1400. The spelling changed to Austen sometime in the following century. Later Austens were wool manufacturers who had risen to the lower ranks of the landed gentry. George Austen, born in Tonbridge in 1731, was rector at the Anglican parish church at Steventon in Hampshire. Among his children was the writer Jane Austen.

Another Austen line in Kent was minor gentry in Tenterden in Tudor times. Sir Robert Austen got wealthy as a London merchant and acquired the Hall Place estate in Bexley in 1649. It remained in Austen hands until the death of a later Sir Robert Austen, childless and in debt, in 1743. He had married the sister of that notorious rake Sir Francis Dashwood. Also from Tenterden, starting in the 1560’s, came the Austens of Goudhurst.

Then there were the Austens of Shalford in Surrey. These Austens appear to have originated in Shropshire and settled first in Hertfordshire before moving to Surrey in the early 1500’s. They were wool merchants in Guildford and subsequently wealthy landowners. Their home, Shalford House, was completed in 1611. Sir Alfred Bingley recounted the family history in his 1936 manuscript The Austens of Shalford which was published by an Austen descendant, Richard Godwin-Austen, in 2008.

From Southwark in London came William Austin, a man of letters whose works principally on religious themes – first appeared in the 1620’s. His son William was a poet who presented a flattering poem to Charles II on the occasion of his marriage in 1662.

NW England. There appears to have been a migration of Austins to NW England where they were present possibly as early as the 13th century in Shropshire and Cheshire.

Later they were found more in Staffordshire. Possibly the name here came from the Augustine priory that had existed at Stone and the Austin friars which continued in the area until 1538. Thomas Austin held Oxley Hall in Staffordshire in the 1500’s, although the male line here died out with his death in 1601. One family history in Staffordshire began with the marriage of William Austin and Anne Walters in Eccleshall in 1783. And Austins had extended into Lancashire by the 18th century.

Ireland. The Austin name does appear in Ireland, probably of English origins. The 1890 birth index gave Dublin and Antrim as the main locations for the name.

William Austin from Tandragee in Armagh served with the 52nd Foot Regiment from 1805 to 1815, culminating in the Battle of Waterloo. John Austin, a Methodist there, departed for Canada with his family in 1829; William and Samuel Austin, brothers, for New Zealand in 1850 or so. Samuel, who made his home in Wanganui, was awarded the New Zealand Cross in 1866 for his fighting during the Maori Wars.

America. Richard Austin from Hampshire came to Massachusetts with his family on the Bevis in May 1638. He died, however, before
the year was out. The main line ran through his son Anthony Austin, one of the early settlers in Suffield, Connecticut.

Richard’s forebears had come from Tenterden in Kent; as had those of Francis Austin who came to Evesham township in New Jersey sometime in the 1680’s. Meanwhile Jonah Austen had married his wife Constance in Tenterden and they sailed to New England in 1634, eventually settling in Taunton, Massachusetts.

Other early New England arrivals, also from Kent, were:

  • Joseph Austin who had come to New England in 1642 and made his home in Dover, New Hampshire in 1648.
  • John Austin, a carpenter by trade, who had come to Connecticut by 1647 and made his home in Greenwich in 1656. However, he died a year later from the malaria plague that had hit the township.
  • and another John Austin who came to the New Haven colony in the mid-1660’s.

Some Irish Austin immigrants were recorded.  William Austin came to Kent county, Maryland sometime in the 1670’s, origin within Ireland unknown. Other Austins, possibly related, were in North Carolina by the 1760’s and later settled in Tennessee and Illinois.  A family Bible, known as “the Lonesome Bible,” was found inside an old Austin cabin in Burns, Tennessee. William.Austin, the sixth William dating back to the first William of Maryland, had died there in 1876

Onward to Texas. Moses Austin was in the fifth generation of Austins in America which had started with Richard Austin and ran through Anthony. Moses, the first of his line to leave Connecticut, had developed lead mining in the 1790’s in Virginia and in Missouri where he later lived.

Then, after several speculative ventures in the southwest, Moses managed to obtain a large land grant from the Spanish government in 1820, with plans to form the first Anglo colony in Texas. He died soon afterward and it was his son Stephen who was to lead the colonization effort that eventually led to the settlement of “the Old 300” families in 1825. Stephen F. Austin is considered the founder of Texas.

John Austin was one of Stephen Austin’s “Old 300,” but not apparently any relation although he did also come from Connecticut. John was joined in Texas by his brothers William and James. However, he died of the cholera epidemic in 1833, as did his father John a year later. Part of his land grant, which was sold in 1836, was the settlement that became Houston, Texas.

Caribbean. Thomas Austin from Somerset was deported to Barbados in 1685 for his role in Monmouth’s Rebellion at that time. He may or may not have been the forefather of the Thomas Austin who was born on the island in 1720. This Thomas was married three times, from whence came twenty children. His descendants were numerous. The family history was recounted in Burslem and Manning’s 2007 book An Old Colonial Family.

Canada. Captain Henry Austin was a Loyalist who had departed for Canada during the Revolutionary War. He married in Nova Scotia in 1780 and subsequently settled in New Brunswick. His grandson Henry, born in 1831, was a successful merchant there who ventured into local politics.

James Austin had arrived in Toronto with his parents from Armagh in Ireland in 1829. He became a very successful businessman, founding the Toronto Dominion Bank in 1871. His son Albert, an Olympic class golfer in his day, inherited James’s business interests on his death in 1897. James had acquired Spadina House in Toronto in 1866 and this home was to remain with the family for more than a century.

Australia. Thomas Austin’s main claim to fame was the introduction of rabbits into Australia in 1859. He had arrived from Somerset with his family in 1831 and they made their home at Barwon Park in Victoria where they prospered as sheep farmers. After Thomas’s unexpected death in 1871, his widow Elizabeth embarked on a new career as a philanthropist, founding the Austin Hospital for Incurables in 1882.

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

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Jane Austen was an English novelist of the early 19th century whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature.
Stephen F. Austin
has been called the father of Texas. He led the successful colonization of the region by bringing ‘the Old Three Hundred” families there from America in 1825.
Herbert Austin
launched the Austin Motor Company in 1905. For a time his UK plant at Longbridge was one of the largest car manufacturers in the world

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  • 34,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 45,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 24,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


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