East Surname Miscellany, History & Origin

East Surname Meaning

The four points of the compass transposed in England into surnames. Of these, East was the third most popular. East and Este were early name variations. Este is also the name of a long-established European dynastic family from Italy.

East Surname Resources on The Internet

East Surname Ancestry

  • from England (East Anglia)
  • to America and Caribs (Jamaica)

England.  The first East surname, like the first West surname, was recorded in the county of Essex. And Easts, just like Wests, were fairly numerous in Lincolnshire. William Este was a master mason from Abingdon, Oxfordshire around the year 1500 and the East name was conspicuous in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, as well as in London.

Thomas East was a prominent music publisher in London during Elizabethan times, the subject of Jeremy Smith’s book Thomas East and Music Publishing in Renaissance England; and his nephew Michael a well-known organist and composer of his day. William East, a London lawyer, built Hall Place near Maidenhead in 1735 which the family held for the next hundred years.

America. Thomas East was living in Henrico county, Virginia in the 1670’s and possibly earlier. His descendants were to be found by the 1740’s in Pittsylvania county in southern Virginia and they later spread throughout the South. There were many James among these Easts, including James East, one of the early settlers in Illinois.

Caribbean. Captain John East was active in the conquest of Jamaica in the 1660’s and obtained an estate there. A descendant Edward Hyde East, born in Jamaica, served as a judge in India in the early 1800’s and was created a baronet.

East Surname Miscellany

East, West, North and South.  The four points of the compass transposed in England into surnames. Of these, East was the third most popular.  The numbers in England today are:

in England Numbers (000’s) Share (%)
West    57   66
North    14    16
East    10    12
South     5     6

The House of Este.  The origins of the family, probably of Frankish nobility, date back to the time of Charlemagne in the early 9th century when they settled in Lombardy.  Their name came from the castle they built at Este near Padua in the early 11th century.

The family split into two branches. The elder is known as the house of Welf-Easte or Guelf-Easte.  They included the dukes of Brunswick and Luneburg in Germany and produced England’s Hanoverian monarchy.  The younger, known as the house of Fulc-Este or later simply as the house of Este, remained based in Italy.  They included rulers of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio.

Estes and Easts in Oxfordshire.  William Este, a freemason of Oxford, was recorded in 1494 as being engaged on works at Woodstock Hall.  He was shown in Abingdon in 1505 as a master mason.  One East family line in Canada dates back to John and Elizabeth East who lived in Somerton in the late 16th century.  Easts in Wolverton go back to 1726. Catherine East was born in Souldern in 1771. Giles East and Esther Stowe were married in Chadlington in 1774.

Sir Edward Hyde East.  Edward East, who was the great grandson of Captain John East prominent in the original conquest of Jamaica, was born on that island in 1764, the son of Edward and Amy East.  He moved as a young man to London where he became a a lawyer and MP and then was appointed a judge in India.

Besides performing his judicial duties there, he interested himself in the cause of native education, and was the chief promoter of the Hindu College.  When he retired from office in 1822 the Indians presented him with an address and subscribed for a statue of him. This, executed by Francis Chantney, was afterwards placed in the grand jury room of the Supreme Court in Calcutta.

James East, An Early Settler in Illinois.  James had gone south with his father from Virginia to Georgia in 1790.  He stayed there a while but then moved west with his wife Polly and some of her family into Tennessee after the death of James Sr. in 1811. Five years later, James pioneered in Madison county, Illinois, being one of the first white settlers there.  He erected a pole cabin and planted two acres of corn on the edge of the prairie with a spade, before returning to Tennessee to fetch his wife and children.

From an early history of Madison county, James was described as “a man of industrious habits who accumulated a good deal of property, 640 acres, raised a large family of children, eight sons and two daughters, and died in Madison county in 1833 and was buried there.”

Alfred East from Kettering.  Kettering in Northamptonshire was known for its shoemakers and one of the most established of these shoemakers in the early 19th century was the East family.  In 1844 Alfred East was born into this family, the youngest of a family of eleven children.

Alfred drew and painted from an early age and this was continued when he was old enough to go to the Grammar School.  However, neither his school nor his family gave him any particular encouragement.  Despite being totally obsessive about his art, his parents sent him to work at a shoe factory in Kettering owned by his brother Charles (which was quite a large establishment employing more than a hundred workers).

After being sent to Glasgow as the firm’s representative there, he attended evening art classes and decided to make art his career. Accordingly Alfred enrolled at Glasgow School of Art and later went to study in France. He returned to England around about 1883 and established studios in both London and Cornwall.

His work captured the particular qualities of the English landscape and reflected the mood in England during the Edwardian period.  He became famous and honors were showered upon him from all over the world.

East Names

  • Thomas East was a prominent music publisher in London during Elizabethan times.
  • Sir Alfred East was a popular English painter of his day. He died in 1913.

East Numbers Today

  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous in Dorset)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

East and Like Surnames

Many surnames have come from East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) and surrounding areas in eastern England.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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