Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Variants: Chaston, Chesham, Chessum, Cheston
Category: 1 - A study where research using core genealogical datasets and transcriptions is in its early stages.
Contact: Mr Nicholas Spence
This remains unclear. I am coming round to thinking that the basic form of the surname is Cheston, but that it was pronounced ChAY- s'n with the accent on the first syllable, and the second syllable a barely spoken schwa. The 't' in the middle part of the name is scarcely pronounced - like the 't' in the middle of 'mustn't. What seems surprisingly constant though is that there is virtually no overlap between spellings ending in 'n' and those ending in 'm'.
There has been some speculation that the name was brought to Britain from France where it was spelled Cheysson - Claude Cheysson the recently deceased French politician being a modern holder of the name. As many groups fleeing from religious persecution in early modern France settled in Norfolk and East Kent, this explanation is possible, especially as so far I have not identified bearers of the name in Britain before the mid 16th century.
There is one group of Chestons which does not fit this general pattern. This group is found in the Severn valley from Droitwich down to Bristol. There are some indications that this group were originally Chestertons.
I suspect that the Chessum/Chesham surnames probably refer to an origin in the town of Chesham Bucks. The historical spread of these names is quite different, being mainly found in a rough arc some 30 miles north of London stretching from Biggleswade in the west to Saffron Walden in the east
The surname spelled Chesson is found in three main areas in the pre-railway age, Norfolk, East Kent, and West Kent, with a smaller group in western Essex as well as some in London. In the early years of the 18th century there a few examples found in southern Cornwall, but the male line there appears to have died out after a couple of generations. Where occupations are known in the 18th and early 19th centuries there is a strong seafaring element, and my current thinking is that the name spread from East Anglia to other parts of England by fishermen.
The names Chaston and Cheston in these early days was principally found in East Anglia, either side of the border between Suffolk and Norfolk, mainly in the area near the coast from Yarmouth to Aldeburgh. There was a large seafaring element amongst people bearing those names too.
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