Posted by on 22 October 2012 in General, Guest Bloggers, What's in a name?

Authored by Dr. James M. Owston.  Along with his distant English cousins Tim J. Owston and Roger J.Ouston, Dr. James M. Owston of the USA has been researching the Owston surname since 1978.  He has registered the surname with the Guild of One-Name Studies and also administers two Owston DNA projects.  His genealogy blog, the Lineal Arboretum, can be found here.

Owston and its variant Ouston is a locative name that contains the Old Norse element “austr,” meaning east; and the Old English suffix “tun” for farmstead.  While several English villages bear the names Owston, Ouston, and Oulston; none of the existing families can be satisfactorily connected to any of these locations.  Most, if not all, Owston and Oustons can be traced to one of three Owston families that originated in and around the Vale of Pickering that straddles the counties of North Yorkshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The first occurrence of the name in the region was the 1452 recording of the will of John Oustyn of Place Newton in the parish of Wintringham.  During the next century, several Owston families were recorded in several nearby parishes.  While other early occurrences appear elsewhere in Britain, it does not appear that descendants of these other families have continued to the present.

The current Owstons and Oustons can be traced to three distinct families that originated in Sherburn in Hartford Lythe, Ganton, and Thornholme in the parish of Burton Agnes.  While traditional genealogical methods cannot trace these families to a common ancestor, Y-DNA results conclude that all three lineages share a common patriarch who probably lived in the 15th century.

Some notable individuals bearing the surname include the following:

Naturalist Alan Owston of Yokohama, Japan who discovered many new species of animals in the Pacific Rim between 1880 and 1915.  Many of these animals bear his name both in popular and scientific nomenclature.

World War I soldier Lt. Colonel Leycester Varley Owston, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was knighted with the Order of the Crown of Italy.

John Owston, the coxswain of the Scarborough Lifeboat, who assisted in saving 230 lives and was awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal.

It is estimated that 500 individuals worldwide bear the Owston surname and its Ouston variant.  The greatest number or these adherents remain in the United Kingdom with the United States placing second.  Other population centers include Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Along with his distant English cousins Tim J. Owston and Roger J. Ouston, Dr. James M. Owston of the USA has been researching the Owston surname since 1978.  He has registered the surname with the Guild of One-Name Studies and also administers two Owston DNA projects.  His genealogy blog, the Lineal Arboretum, can be found here.

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