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About the study
Interest in the ESSERY surname was sparked in 1982 when I was told that I had the right to bear Arms. I disbelieved the person telling me this and a bit of investigation proved I was right.
The Arms were those of the Essely family in the Lincolnshire area which seemed to die out circa 1595, and had nothing to do with my surname.
About a year later I started working for a new company where my boss was a keen genealogist and he introduced me to St. Catherine's House.
I could not initially find my Father's Birth Index or my Grandfather's, and in looking for them both transcribed many years of the Essery families. I eventually applied to join the Guild circa 1985.
There are many possible variants of the surname, and it is quite possible that there are also many origins.
The most common variant is ESSARY which is used by almost every family in the USA, though Canada seems to mostly use the original spelling.
The majority of the corruptions have been to replace the second 'e' with another vowel, eg ESSARY, ESSORY, ESSURY, ESSIRY, but I have also seen ESSEY and ESSRY.
Whilst researching in the Record Office at Barnstaple, I came across one family, in Petrockstowe, where the marriage took place with the fathers name being ESSERY (written like EfSERY which was standard in those days), the first child was baptised as EBSERY and he was married as EBSARY. I have since checked the 1851 Census for Petrockstowe and found three families with the surname EBSARY and one with the surname EBSRY.
I have even seen one parish where it appears that ESSERY was corrupted to EBESWORTHY.
The surname ESSWORTHY (qv) is mentioned in conjunction with ESSERY in 'A Dictionary of Devon Surnames' by Spielgelhalter, using Rt. Essaworthy of 1275 as a reference.
The small worth of Esworthy (now only one farm) is the most likely origin of the surname. The oldest reference in the IGI is to one AGNIS ESWYRE which could sound like both ESSERY and ESWORTHY when said with a Devon accent. The worth had at one point five farms and two rows of terraced cottages, but no public house, church or even a well.
Other places in Devon that could have originated the name are EDSWORTHY, ELSWORTHY, EBSWORTHY, EWORTHY, EUWORTHY and even AXWORTHY (the later is cited in another book on English Surnames).
Also of course the surname of could have been corrupted from ESSELY (see below in Distribution of the Name).
I don't believe that ESSER is a variation as that appears to have mostly have had Germanic origins and the spread of the name in 1837 is mostly in the north of the country rather than around Devon.
Historical occurrences of the name
Sad to say most of the historical ESSERY's appear to have been the usual non-entities. The only one that I have seen in history is a reference to a William ESSERY who was an able bodied seaman on HMS Temeraire at the Battle of Trafalgar. When checking at Portsmouth recently though, I couldn't find a reference there to him. If this person really did fight at the Battle of Trafalgar, then he is probably the eldest brother of my four times great grandfather.
I can't even find any criminals in the family, though there are few references to naughty goings on in the North Devon Journal.
The most famous of the modern ESSERY's is John who was the Chief Constable of Devon, and led the investigations into the Manchester Police.
In the 1881 Census there are 307 ESSERY or variant entries.
Using my GRO data entries to determine the increase and decrease in the size of the population at each Census point, I would expect to have only 46 people in the population in the beginning of the September quarter 1837, and 542 alive at the end of 1985 which is the last time that I calculated the population.
This of course does not take any notice of immigration or emigration and assumes that all of the 1881 Census records are correctly transcribed. Looking at my database, I could have up to 163 people missing from the 1881 Census which means I have only found about two thirds of the population and there could have been up to 210 people alive in 1837 which is a much more realistic total. That would also imply that there would be about 600 people alive now.
There were 146 entries in the BMDs during the 10 years up to 1851, with a larger number of entries in each of the following 10 years, the largest number being 244 entries in the 10 years up to 1921.
The total number of ESSERY's alive appears to be reducing at the moment.
Distribution of the name
The Essery name itself appears to be mostly Devon and Cornwall based around 1837, but there are pockets in several sea ports, eg East End of London, Liverpool Docks (W Derby), Portsea Island and Portsmouth, Newport Monmouthshire, Bristol and Cardiff.
Could this possibly be a wife in every port?
There is one pocket that I have been unable to explain, based around Bedford. These may well have been a corruption of the ESSELY family mentioned above.
All the registered births, marriages and deaths for the ESSERY and variant names have been transcribed from the General Record Office's Indexes for England and Wales (only one marriage and one birth have ever been found in Scotland). These will be available at the ESSERY Archive held within the One-Name Studies as soon as I can upload my databases to that facility.
Other details have been transcribed including the IGI entries, Census details from the 1851 Tri-County CD, the 1881, 1891 and 1901 Censuses. Other Census data will be added when time permits. Also transcription of some of the North Devon Parishes has taken place.