I have been doing a little research on the early history of the ABSTON surname in the U.S. and have come to some conclusions that are a little surprising.From what I have been reading on the Internet, researchers have only been able to trace the American ABSTONs back to a few records about Francis ABSTON in Prince George's Co., MD in the 1740s.It appears that most if not all ABSTON descendents in the U.S. can trace their ancestry back to him.
But the history of ABSTON in the U.S. goes back considerably further than Francis ABSTON, as I have been finding.The reason why researchers haven't been finding this out has been because of the bewildering spelling variations that occur when you get back into those pre-1750 records.There are actually a number of ABSTON individuals who are recorded before Francis ABSTON.The earliest ABSTON recorded in MD is an individual whose personal name is William but whose surname is spelled on the Archives of Maryland website 17 different ways, and not one of them is "ABSTON"!They are: ABBESTONE ABESTONE ASBERSTON ASBESTON ASBESTONE ASBISTON ASBOSTON ASHBISHTON ASHBISTON OFBASTON ORSBERSTON OSBALDSTON OSBASTON OSBESTON OSBERSTON OSBERSTONE OSBEYSTONE Despite all these different spellings, when you look closely at the records you will see that they are all the same individual.Back in early colonial times, spelling was not standardized in the least and reflected varying dialects and shifting pronunciations.
This particular person, William ABSTON (the standard spelling that we will use here), was born in 1625, birth place currently unknown.He was indentured as a servant in 1641 (at the age of 16) to Thomas ORLEY in St. Mary's Co., MD.This indenture was later transfered to Thomas ALLEN.In 1648, he petitioned the court to acknowledge that his indenture had satisfactorily concluded, and this was granted.
In 1651, William was given a land grant for 50 acres in St. Michael's Hundred of St. Mary's Co., MD, called Osbeston's Oak, near a branch of the St. Georges River known as Osbeston's Branch.He married Elizabeth Smith, daughter of Robert Smith and wife Rose, and had two children, William and Winifred, but probably at least two others.He was a "planter", that is, a farmer who raised crops such as tobacco and corn and who also kept cattle.He was frequently in court, usually as a witness, juror, or as a party in a business transaction, but also occasionally in a lawsuit.He was in the minority of people who were literate.He died in 1681 in St. Mary's Co., MD, where he lived at least all of his adult life.
I believe that Francis ABSTON was a grandson of this William, but it will take a lot more research to say with any certainty.
There is at least one record that positively ties the ABSTON spelling with St. Mary's Co., MD -- the 1727 administration of George Crafts' estate in St. Mary's Co. in which a Thomas ABSTON is listed. (MD Inventories & Accounts series).This record predates those records found regarding Francis Abston in St. George's Co.
What all of this points to -- this is where I stick my neck out -- is that the predominantly American ABSTON surname is really an early 18th century offshoot of what is now the modern British surname OSBASTON, which in itself could well be a variant of the older OSBALDSTON/OSBALDESTON form (as suggested by the records on the above William), which goes back as a surname at least until the 1200s in England and is derived from a place-name in Lancashire, England.If you look in the UK telephone directories, you will find hundreds of OSBASTONs and OSBALDSTON/OSBALDESTONs.If you look on the LDS genealogy website (www.familysearch.net), you will find that historically these surname spellings are quite common in England -- at least 2000 records, in fact, when you account for spelling variations.Individuals with these surname spellings are all over England from an early date, so it may be difficult to determine which county in England the American ABSTONs derive from.But the point is that ABSTON is with very little doubt ultimately an English surname.
That's my five pence ... just something to think about!
I am in Buford, GA and am not able to travel much.It would be nice to collaborate with somebody who is close to the VA Archives in Richmond or the MD Archives in Annapolis and who is interested enough to do some research on the early ABSTONs.