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About the study
My husband Mark and I began our family history research in 2006 when his mother, Margaret Josephine Smith (nee Estall), said she wanted to know more about her family. Maggie's family lost touch with her Estall cousins when the East End was bombed in World War II and families had to resettle elsewhere. Sadly, the bombs also destroyed our photos and family papers so we had very little information to start with.
At first, we just tried to trace our direct line but when we were faced with dozens of William Estalls to sort out we decided to begin a one-name study. While my mother-in-law was busy catching up on lost years with the cousins she was rediscovering, we went on to build an in-depth understanding of the family in England since 1700. We also know about many of the Estall families who emigrated. We joined the Guild in 2010.
The data available through the London Archive Centres and the Internet has been a big help to our research but the most important information comes from our Estall contacts, descendants of Estalls and those researching families of Estall spouses. We believe that the only way to build an accurate picture and appreciation of our past is to share information widely and we welcome any enquiries. Our research to date is available at mbaldac.tribalpages.com and our e-mail address is listed below.
Our one-name study is currently focused on the Estall surname only but no doubt we will add variants over time. We are confident that well over 90% of Estall descendants living in England today descend from one couple who married in Whitechapel, London in 1721. We still have work to do to gain confidence in our understanding of the earlier origins of the Estall surname but we believe that it relates back to a long list of 'Est-' and 'East-' surnames who seem to have originated on the coast of Norfolk in the 1400s.
Based on the International Genealogical Index, we get a possible picture of a family originating near Norwich, Norfolk and then migrating through the 1500s and 1600s down to Diss and Ipswich in Suffolk and on to Mistley, Essex. There are many variant spellings, some occurring in the same documents. Currently we think that surnames such as Estowe, Estole, Estoll, Estall and Estaugh -- as well as the same names beginning with 'East-' -- may share a common origin. Many of the variant names disappeared centuries ago, but surnames such as Eastall, Eastell and Eastoll are still in use in Norfolk and Suffolk today. With few exceptions, the Estall name only survived in London until families became more mobile after the war.
We also wonder if there is a connection with the sea-faring Estill family of Yorkshire who became prevalent in the Hackness area beginning in the late 1500s and the coal-mining Estell family who then took root in Durham, but a DNA study may be the only means of checking for such early family ties.
Some references state that the Estall surname originated from 'Esthall', a name meaning 'east hall' and one that appears in several locations from the time of the Normans. However, the records that we've reviewed to date make us think it's more likely that our family name came from an 'Estowe' or 'Eastowe' family in Norfolk in the late 1400s, a name that might relate to it appearing in one of the eastern-most points in the British Isles. Many variants of the name took root as families grew and settled in new locations.
The Estall surname was almost completely restricted to the Norfolk/Suffolk area until the mid-1600s. It then disappeared from this area but we've found multiple generations of the name in Buckinghamshire over the next 100 years, no doubt from one family line. The name then disappeared from Buckinghamshire in the latter 1700s, but by that time William Estall and Leah Holt had started the London line that survives today.
Although the Estall name sounds European and there is even a small village in the Pyrenees called Estall, we can find no evidence of the name originating or persisting in Continental Europe.
Historical occurrences of the name
The Estall family were mostly manual workers and craftsmen through the centuries, with little evidence of them in documents like wills, property deeds or even burial records. Fortunately there is also little evidence of them in the court records, which is particularly noteworthy given that many of them came to live in some of the most destitute boroughs in the country in Victorian and more recent times. The family is full of stories of historical importance though, both successes and tragedies:
- Thomas Estall (1788-1835) established the Robson & Estall firm which helped to build London with works undertaken at, for example, Buckingham Palace and Guildhall. A family plaque hangs in St Margaret's Chapel next to Westminster Abbey. Thomas left a sizeable inheritance to his many children, some of whom used the funds to re-settle in Australia.
- William John Estall (1798-1875) was able to turn his knowledge of weaving into a silk manufacturing business, featuring the intricate and beautiful designs that were brought to England by the Huguenot immigrants of the late 1600s. We have many connections to the great French Huguenot families, including our ggg grandmother Sarah Vandome, her sister-in-law Ann Mary Ardouin, and many cousins from the Le Cerf, Forecast (Forquest), Auvache and other Huguenot lines. Estalls were buried alongside the Huguenot family lines in London's Dissident cemeteries.
- George Estall (1806-1871) made national news when he froze to death in the Bethnal Green workhouse on Christmas Day. George's death highlighted the shocking conditions of many of our ancestors and their East End neighbours, a tragic story captured by Jack London in his 1902 book The People of the Abyss.
- Charles Patrick Estall (1832-1914) and his father-in-law Henry Wouldom, a gardener better known for his prize-winning peas, grabbed international headlines in the 1880s for having created a set of 'rabbit burrows' for the prostitution of Charles' young daughters in Wellington, New Zealand that 'the back slums of London were nothing to'. Despite this, Charles' children wrote him a deeply touching memoriam upon his death. One son, Alfred Wouldom Estall (1875-1950), went on to leave deeply moving writings of his Boer War experience where he served with the New Zealand Defence Force. Another son, Randolph James Estall (1879-1966) earned an MBE and the King George V Jubilee Medal as the renowned conductor of the Woolston Brass Band and one of those in the forefront of the Brass Band era.
- Thomas Estall (1848-1920) rose to prominence as a Senior General Manager of the National Provincial Bank of England as well as a Master of the Worshipful Company of Turners. Thomas passed away only a few years after losing his son Captain Arthur Cecil Estall (1890-1917) - who had been following in his father's footsteps - in World War I. Thomas' wife, Emily (nee Tilley), published a memorial to her beloved son each year in The Times until her death in 1947. Thomas and Emily's daughter Muriel Hilda Estall (1894-unknown) married Lieutenant Commander Rupert Thomas Gould whose story was captured in a book entitled Time Restored: The Harrison timekeepers and R. T. Gould, the man who knew (almost) everything.
- William Charles Estall (1857-1897) created striking landscapes that still attract attention in present-day art auctions. His father, William John Estall (1830-1898), was an acclaimed furniture designer for the James Lamb firm and exhibited his work at the London Exhibition of 1862. William Charles' sister-in-law Jessie Sharp married Claude Hayes, another acclaimed landscape and portraiture painter. The family seemed to be part of a close-knit community of 19th century London artists and artisans. One of our present-day Estall artists has devoted his talents to painting life on the River Thames as experienced by his watermen and lightermen ancestors.
- Emma Mary Ann Estall (1871-unknown), at the age of 17, took part in the Bow Match Worker's Strike to save the many women like her from starvation wages and the conditions that made diseases such as Fossy Jaw prevalent in the match factories. Other Estalls were also active in the early Labour movement, desperately seeking survival wages and conditions for weavers and other occupations hard hit by industrialisation and the influx of Irish immigrants devastated by the potato famine.
- Charles Martin Estall (1896-1988) earned the Military Cross as a Warrant Officer in WWI and went on to become a Company Sargeant Major. His medals and sword are at the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment Museum at Clandon. Many other Estalls gave their lives for their countries in the World Wars and are commemorated in cemeteries throughout England, Continental Europe and the Middle East.
- Rowland Estall (1906-unknown) was one of the founding fathers of the Baha'i faith in Canada. His sister Ivy (1903-2005) travelled the world as a missionary and their brother Henry (1904-2001) was a distinguished Professor of Philosphy. Henry did an excellent piece of research, available from The Huguenot Society, on his great grandmother Ann Mary Estall (nee Ardouin) and her ancestors.
Estall is a rare surname. There were less than 60 people with this surname in the 1841 Census for England and Wales and only 8 families with children. By the time of the 1901 Census, the total number had grown to over 200 including over 30 families with children. This growth is particularly striking, given that a over a quarter of the children born with the Estall surname during this period didn't survive childhood. ONS statistics identify that there are now about 260 people using the Estall surname in England and Wales.
There are also significant populations of Estalls overseas so the total number number worldwide may be in the region of 400-500.
Distribution of the name
William Estall and his wife Leah Holt lived in White's Yard, Whitechapel in London's East End when they married in 1721. Several generations of Estalls were born at White's Yard and at the time of the 1841 census, over 90% of Estalls born in England were from the London boroughs including almost 60% from Bethnal Green in the East End. In 1901, the distribution had begun to shift but the family was still predominantly in London. About 40% percent were from the East End, another 45% percent from other areas of Greater London and only 15% from other counties. Particularly since World War II, the family has spread out dramatically. Of the Estall children born in the UK from 1950-2005, less than 10% were born in the East End, another 35% were from other areas of Greater London, and over half were born in other parts of the country.
Early in the 19th century, Estall families began to emigrate to other English-speaking countries. They settled in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United States. Estall families still live in all of these locations today. There is also some evidence that it may have been three Estall brothers from Norfolk who emigrated in the mid-1600s and gave rise to the large Estill family in the States.
Our Estall Family Tree now contains over 10,000 entries including:
- Over 1000 people born with the Estall surname
- Over 700 Estall spouses
- Almost 3000 descendants of Estall women and their spouses
- The parents and siblings of spouses, as well as sibling's spouses
- Maternal ancestral lines of particular interest, for example those that connect back to Huguenot immigrants
We believe that our tree reflects over 90% of people born in England since 1700 with the Estall surname, as well as many Estall emigrants. All but 250 people in our tree connect to William Estall and Leah Holt who married in 1721 in Whitechapel. The remaining 250 people are in a separate tree that holds a line of Estalls in New Zealand who do not appear to descend from William and Leah. However, we know that this line originated in London and are confident that it will connect with our main tree when we are able to move back a few more generations into the 1600s.
We have made good progress but still have work to do on the descendants of Estall women. We also separately hold several sizeable trees of Estall variant names not available through our website, especially on families who came to the London area.
For the Estall surname, we have catalogued:
- The GRO registers of births, deaths and marriages 1837-2005 for England and Wales, including images and a large number of GRO certificates
- The England & Wales Census Records 1841-1911, including images
- The International Genealogical Index in full, as well as variant names to 1700
Our Family Tree also includes the following parish register information accessible online from Ancestry.com:
- London Births & Baptisms, 1813-1906
- London Marriages & Banns, 1754-1921
- London Deaths & Burials, 1813-1980
We have spent many enjoyable hours searching for our family in the various London Archive Centres. We have images of administrations as well as documents relating to Estalls that are held in hardcopy form at The National Archives.