Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Category: 3 - A study where research using core genealogical datasets and transcriptions is well under way on a global basis.
Contact: Ms Ros Escott
I have been an Escott all my life – I have never wanted to change my name by taking someone else’s. Escott is a relatively unusual surname, so it has always felt special.
My grandfather was born in Cornwall, so that’s where my Escott family history research started. But whenever I find an occurrence of the Escott name, I can’t help myself wanting to know more.
I have set up this Escott one-name-study in an attempt to gather information about all the Escotts who have ever lived since surnames and records began, to try to sort them into families or at least geographic groups, to find possible connections between the various groups, and perhaps to identify one or more origins of the surname Escott.
I am also interested in DNA (see below), which might help answer some of these questions.
Please contact me if your surname is or was Escott, if you have Escotts in your family tree, have Escotts in your Y-DNA matches, are in a position to provide information or to help in some way with this huge project, or if you have a question.
Most family names have had at least one and often several changes of spelling over the centuries; it is rare to find a current surname spelt the same way as it was in the Domesday Book, the great survey of England completed in 1086. The Escott name is no exception and there are a number of variations in the records, including Escot, Arscott, Arscot and occasionally Ascot.
In the old church records of births, marriages and burials for my illiterate Cornish ancestors, the same person can have two or three of these variants recorded during their life course. It seemed to depend on their individual pronunciation in their local accent and how the particular clergyman heard and decided to spell it. But somehow these families reverted to consistently being recorded as Escotts.
There is a branch of Escotts who are descended from a Hitchcock who moved from Somerset to Wales, where other Escotts were already established. A combination of his illiteracy and accent appear to have contributed to various spellings of his surname over time, but eventually the whole family morphed into Escotts, perhaps because it was already a locally known name.
The Sweet-Escott surname arose in 1799 in Somerset when Thomas Sweet married his distant cousin Mary Escott, the daughter of Bickham Escott and Mary Willis. Thomas Sweet’s maternal grandmother was a Mary Escott. They chose to adopt the hyphenated surname, which persists today although some descendants have dropped the Sweet and use the name Escott.
An African-American branch of Escotts in Alabama arose from an English female Escott who formed a relationship with an African-American in Georgia in the early 1800s, at a time when inter-racial relationships and marriage were unlawful. Their children took their mother's surname Escott.
There is also an Eastcott one-name-study, which includes the variants Eastcot, Eastcote, Estcote, Estcott. Although there is the occasional misspelling overlap with Escott, these appear to be a separate group of family names. Please check out that study if you think your name is closer to that spelling.
There are a number of suggested origins of the Escott name, but most likely it is an Anglo-Saxon name derived from the Olde English words “est” (east) and “cot/e” (cottage or shelter, especially one for animals and usually sheep). Escott could be a topographical surname, denoting residence “at the east cottage”.
Alternatively, the name could indicate a person from any one of several similarly named places in England such as “Estcott” in Cornwall or “Escot” in Devon. This explanation is more likely, as the Cornish, in earlier times, were known for giving their children a unique given name, followed by the father’s given name and then their place of abode as a surname. Until 1736, it was also quite common to change surname on moving to another place, so that brothers could eventually have different surnames.
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, Hanks, Coates and McClure, lists early bearers of the name as: Gundwinus de Estcota, 1190 in the Pipe Rolls (Beds); Hugh de Escote, 1280 in the Calendar of Patent Rolls (Stoodleigh, Devon); Thomas de Escote, 1327 in Feet of Fines (West Tytherley, Hants); William Estecote, 1465 in Feet of Fines (Bideford, Devon); George Estcott or Escott, 1586 in Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills (Carhampton, Somerset); Richard Escourt, 1611 in Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills (Newton Tony, Wilts); Richard Estcott or Escott, 1637 in Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills (Launceston, Cornwall).
Robert atte Estcote (1327 Subsidy Rolls (Sussex)) lived at the ‘east cottage’ (now called Eastcourt), near Estcot's Farm in East Grinstead, Sussex.
A Robert Estcott at the time of King Richard I (1157-1199) is recorded as having two sons, Stephen Estcott (his heir) and a younger son William Totworthy de Totworthy -- who presumably moved to Totworthy, changed his name, and started his own dynasty when he did not inherit the family estate (a female descendant of his married back into the main line of the Estcott family 5 generations later).
Other sources suggest that the Escott name is derived from the older French form of Estcott, and that they moved to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. There are numerous instances of the name “d’Escot” in France, including a Chateau d’Escot and Les Fontaines d’Escot, a former 15th century monastery in the Pyrenees, now a thermal resort.
Cornish surnames, in particular, are characterised by a multitude of spelling variations because of the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language (related to Welsh and Breton) which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. Cornish mostly became extinct as a spoken language in 1777 but its influence has predominantly continued as a distinct “West Country” dialect.
Old records of names, including parish and census records, were usually made from oral information and often provided by people who were illiterate, so dialect could easily determine how names were recorded. Also, the Olde and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules, so phonetic spelling could result in variations between records of the same person.
Common to all these variations of the Escott family name appears to be a Coat of Arms which depicts six silver escallops, positioned three, two and one, on a black shield. The Crest is one of three options: a lion, half black and half white; a red ostrich with a gold horseshoe in its beak; or an erect gull with wings expanded. Each different Crest may have been unique to a different individual or branch of the family.
The consistency, at least in the shield, suggests that the various versions of the Escott names may have a common origin. Alternatively, it may be a more modern attempt to link the name retrospectively to a known Coat of Arms.
Does anyone know of any famous Escotts?
It depends on one's definition of fame! Many Escotts have been local heros and done wonderful things in their own communities. There are only two famous Escott that I can find and they were technically not Escotts although they bought fame to our name.
Sir Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott KCMG (1857 –1941) was a British colonial administrator and governor who was in turn Governor of the Seychelles, British Honduras, Leeward Islands and Fiji. There is an Escott Street in Fiji named after him.
The American soprano Lucy Escott (1828-1895) was a prima donna in William Saurin Lyster's Grand Opera Company which performed worldwide, including in Australia and New Zealand. She has a portrait in the Australian National Gallery. She was born Lucy Evans Grant in Springfields, Massachusetts, USA and appears to have taken Lucy Escott as a stage name. The reason for her choice of name is not known. After her marriage she was known as Madame Lucy Escott-Squires.
It is estimated that there are around 1350 current living Escotts in England and Wales (based on National Statistics figures).
Is is estimated that that around 5250 people have had the name Escott since the start of English parish registers in the mid 16th century.
Escott ranks 4752 of the 270,000 surnames in the UK.
United States of America
Escott had 873 occurrences in the 2000 Census (U.S. government records).
Escott ranks 26306 in terms of the most common surnames in America for 2000.
There are 220 Escotts living in Australia (Australian Government records).
The earliest records of Escott are in south-west England (predominantly Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Wiltshire) and that's where the highest frequency of the name occurred in the 1881 census. Although the name has spread since then, it still predominantly occurs in that south-west England and Glanmorgan, Wales.
So far, my research suggests that all the Escotts in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand appear to be descended from the Escotts of south-west England.
There are some indigenous Australians who use the family name Escott. This is probably a geographically-derived surname from Escott station in far north Queensland, near Burketown in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The station supposedly derived its name from the English, Scottish, Australian Pastoral Co. who originally owned the land.
I am making progress with my ESCOTT one-name study. I have extensive data on my own extended family of Escotts in Cornwall, including the two branches that came separately to Australia and the branches that went to America and Canada.
I also have some large family trees for Escott families in Somerset – the Sweet-Escotts mentioned above are descended from one branch of these families.
I have done some research on the Escotts of Devon and a group of Escotts in Wales whose origins we have not yet been able to place.
I have built some family trees for Escotts in the USA, including one extensive family of African American Escotts who can be traced back to Georgia.
Please contact me if you have information to share or would like to work with me on the ESCOTT one-name study.
A few Escotts of Cornish descent share the Y-DNA haplogroup R-M417 which is a subgroup of R-M512 R1a1a. One Escott of Somerset descent has a Y-DNA haplogroup R-M269 (R1b1a2).
I am matching on autosomal DNA with 'cousins' in various countries who have either an Escott surname or an Escott ancestor. Please let me know if you have Escott ancestry, have DNA tested, and your results are on Ancestry, FTDNA, MyHeritage and/or GEDmatch. Let's see if we match.
Family Tree DNA has a (so far) very small Escott surname project. If you have had your DNA tested, or are considering having your DNA tested, we urge you to join this project. If you have tested with another company, it is usually possible to download a copy of your raw DNA data and then upload it onto FTDNA for free, or a small cost if you want extra tools. DNA is the only way we will ever be able to sort out the Escott family lines and origins.
If you are interested in having your Y-DNA tested, it may be possible for you to purchase a discounted DNA testing with FTDNA through the Guild of One Name Studies. Please contact me for further information.
My own Escott family history website is at www.rosfamilyhistory.esco.net.au/Escott. It has information about my Cornish/Australian ancestry.
Facebook group page for all Escotts to come together, share information and ask each other questions: Escott Families Worldwide.
The Escott DNA Group Project at FTDNA is at www.familytreedna.com/group-join.aspx?Group=Escott.
You may find our other Guild websites of interest: