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About the study

The ASSHELE One-Name study is a sub-set of a much larger collection relevant to my family name. ASSHELE occurs in some of the earliest written documents that exist and I became curious about the origins of the name and the people who were identified by it. The research has been in progress for several years and is dependent on accessing primary and secondary sources and published transcripts of documents from the time before parish registers were in use.

Research has revealed that Asshele individuals once held great influence and power over land and property. Some were able to gift land to religious houses. However senior family lines appear to have become extinct through lack of male heirs and, since early records primarily recorded the rich and powerful, written evidence to establish any junior lines is not going to be easy.

The aim of this study is to investigate whether or not any junior line managed to survive into more recent centuries.

The number of name holders in the study is small - possible no more than 200 at present, including variants,  - and has been registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies in 2017.

Variant names

The registered variants of the name are ASSHELEGH, ASSHELEYE and ASHELE

Name origin

The occurrence of a surname with reference to a place eg. de Asshele and atte Legh, is a popular one. Another possibility is that the early name reflected a close family relationship such as the personal name of a parent; contenders in the 11th and 12th century included Asser or Ascerus. A third consideration has to be the Norman influence from 1066 onwards. The invaders struggled to pronounce the English 'sh' and substituted 'ss...' with writers diligently recording what they heard, a phonetic transcription, and this may have contributed to the more than 50 variant forms of the name that the researcher has found in early documents; 'Ass - he - leye/le/legh' etc. In conclusion, while there is no one obvious candidate for the origin of the name, the research journey into the past can reveal fascinating insights into the lives of our ancestors.

[More information on the influence of accent on surnames can be found in: Two Early London Subsidy Rolls, ed. Eilert Ekwall ([s.l.], 1951), pp. 25-34.]

Historical occurrences of the name

1299-1300; Agnes de Assheleye became a nun and received Royal Assent for the position of Abbess of St Mary Winchester.

1303; John de Asshelegh was Coroner and sheriff for Devon. He was in declining health, described as ‘infirm’, and he died in 1304.

c1320-1340; Robert de Asshele was a trusted retainer of Edward III and held the position of Kings Justice, collecting taxes and hearing cases at county assizes held in towns around the country.

1361; Isabel Dassheleye was a ‘damsel of the chamber,’ recorded in the Black Prince’s Register.

Modern History

China; The Xinjiang Ashele (Habahe Ashele) Zinc and Copper mine opened in 2004. The mine is named after the Ashele Cu-Zn deposit which was discovered in 1986 in the Ashele Basin.

India; Ashele village, is situated in Maharashtra, and has population of c23,000.

Name frequency

19th and 20th century  lists a small number of families in USA and Canada

1841-1911                            no registered UK births or deaths

1841-1901                            no registered UK marriages

1620-1840                         [research in progress]

1518-1620                            UK birth or death: 4 + 10 variants = 14 [research in progress]

1518-1570                            UK marriages; 2 + 5 variants = 7 [research in progress]

1276-1560                            ASSHELE = 109 additional occurrences of the surname in documents, and

                                           ASSHELEYE (30), ASSHELEGH (30), ASHELE (4) = 64 variants.

Distribution of the name

The surname has been recorded in North America in the 20th century and in China and India as a place name.

During the 16th and 17th century this surname was recorded in Devon and London.

14th - 16th century,  Norfolk and surrounding counties were a focus for the surname.


Next steps

The plan is to develop a dedicated website for the data currently held, while continuing to research further.

At present the focus is on the UK.