Anson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Anson Surname Meaning

Anson’s origins are obscure. Son of whom?

It could be son of Hann (a shortened version of Johan); or possibly son of Agnes (from Agnes has come the surname Annis). Another view is that it came from an old place-name in Yorkshire called Anston. The I’Anson surname is said to have come from Janson, a Dutch version of Johnson.

Anson Surname Resources on The Internet

Anson Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Staffordshire and Yorkshire)
  • to America

England.  The most famous Ansons have come from Staffordshire and from the Slugborough estate near Lichfield.

The Shugborough estate was owned by the Bishops of Lichfield until the dissolution of the monasteries and therefter passed through several hands until it was purchased in 1624 by William Anson, a lawyer who had made his mark in London and previously acquired Dunston Hall in Staffordshire.

A later William Anson had two sons, George, the Admiral of the Fleet famous for his circumnavigation of the world in 1744, and his bother Thomas, the local MP. George Anson had no children and the Anson line continued through his brother Thomas. Subsequent Ansons distinguished themselves in the British army under Wellington and in India, as politicians, and in court.

Thomas Anson was made the first Earl of Lichfield in 1831. The Rev. Frederick Anson was canon to Queen Victoria at Windsor castle. The fifth Earl of Lichfield was a well-known photographer who professionally went under the name of Patrick Lichfield.

But Anson is mainly a Yorkshire name, as the 1881 English census would suggest.  

There is also the I’Anson surname. The first of this line was Captain John I’Anson who fought at Bosworth Field in 1485. He subsequently settled down at Hawkswell near Richmond in Yorkshire. Lancelot I’Anson was a chaplain to Queen Elizabeth. Frances I’Anson, the lass of Richmond Hill, is still said to haunt the town.

  • “This lass so neat, with smiles so sweet,
  • Has won my right good will,
  • I’d crowns resign to call her mine,
  • Sweet lass of Richmond Hill.”

William I’Anson founded the Blink Bonny stud in Malton, Yorkshire and his family were racehorse trainers in the mid/late 19th century. The family history was recorded in Brian I’Anson’s 1915 book The History of the I’Anson Family.

America.  The Anson name in America emerged when Silas Austin, believing himself to be descended from the naval hero Lord Anson, changed his name to Silas Anson in the late 1700’s. A later Anson of this line was the famous baseball player Cap Anson.

Anson Surname Miscellany

Captain John I’Anson.  Captain John I’Anson was said to have come to England from France to fight for Henry of Richmond at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.  Being on the victorious side, he was entitled to some of the spoils.  Henry of Richmond became Henry VII and John I’Anson secured property at Hauxwell near Richmond in Yorkshire.

An old record stated that I’Anson was the commander of a man-of-war in the reign of Henry VIII.  Some writers wrongly ascribe this to his son James, who was described in some quarters as a sea captain.  It is more likely to be his father John who lived onto the year 1546 or thereabouts (“at the end of Henry VIII’s reign in whose service he died”).  James, according to his will dated 1584, was a vintner in Cornhill, London. 

The William Ansons and the Shugborough Estate.  In 1624, the manor house of Shugborough in Staffordshire was acquired by William Anson, a local lawyer, for the princely sum of £1,000.

But the story of the Shugborough estate really began in 1693 when William’s grandson, also called William, demolished the manor house and built a three-storied house which forms the centre of the house today. The transformation of that medium sized country house into a magnificent Georgian mansion was carried out between 1745 and 1748 by the architect Thomas Wright who added the pavilions either side of the 17th century block.

Thomas Anson the First Earl of Lichfield and Shugborough.  Thomas Anson was created the First Earl of Lichfield in the coronation honor list of William IV in 1831. He led an extravagant life, entertaining lavishly at Shugborough. One of his purchases, the estate at nearby Ranton, was developed into a great sporting estate and centre of lavish hospitality.

This lavish spending, together with huge family expenses and the Earl’s love of gambling, led to his financial collapse in 1842. The entire contents of the great house had to be sold in a sale lasting two weeks.

The house did remain in family hands and, with prudent management, the debts were eventually paid off.  In 1966 Shugborough was opened to the public and passed into the hands of the National Trust.

Ansons in the 1881 English Census

Anson in 1881 Census Numbers Percent
Yorkshire   255    28
Lancashire   124    14
London   104    11
Staffordshire    93    10
Elsewhere   334    37
Total   910   100

Ansons in America.  The Anson family was a fixture in Dutchess county, New York for several generations.  They were descended from John Austin, an immigrant from England who founded the town of Stamford in Connecticut in 1657. Since the family claimed a famous British naval hero, Lord Anson, as an ancestor, Silas Austin of this line changed his name to Anson sometime in the late 1700’s.

These Ansons moved to Ohio in the early 1830’s and Henry Anson, an adventurous soul, headed further west in 1851 and staked a claim to the land of what was to become Marshalltown in the new state of Iowa.  The following was one contemporary description of him:

“Henry, often called ‘Hank the red-headed Yankee,’ was a versatile chap of many talents.  He extracted teeth with a pair of bullet molds and served as a local land agent, Justice of the Peace and the County Supervisor.  He was a general promoter of population growth, welcoming any and all settlers westward bound who could be prevailed upon to stop at his McLean House for rest, refreshment and permanent settlement.”

There is a monument to him on the highest ridge of Pioneer Hill in Riverside cemetery in Marshalltown.

On April 15, 1852, in the settlement that Henry Anson had founded and in the log cabin that he had built, the first white child was born in Marshall county, Iowa.

The baby was named Adrian Constantine Anson.  He was to become known as Cap Anson, baseball’s first superstar. Cap Anson went on to play professional baseball for the Chicago White Sox and was an outstanding player for almost two decades He was voted a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1939.

Anson Names

  • George Anson was the famous Admiral of the British fleet who circumnavigated the world in 1744.
  • Cap Anson was a star baseball player of the 1890’s, possibly one of the game’s first superstars.

Anson Numbers Today

  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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Written by Colin Shelley

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