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2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

The one-name worldwide study of the SULSTON family was begun in 1997 and it was based on a detailed notebook kept by the Reverend A.E.A.Sulston. This contained information on members of the family from 1850 onwards and his daughter transferred the records into a computer format and extended the family tree back in time.

Variant names

Before the year 1800, many variations in the spelling can be found in historical documents. These are perpetuated as errors today as anyone who carries the name knows only too well. The following variants have been recorded - CELSTON CELSTONE SALSTAN SALSTON SALSTONE SALSTUN SELSTEN SELSTON SELSTONE SELLSTONE SILSTON SILSTONE SOLLESDONE SOLLESTONE SULSTAN SULSTON SULSTONE SULSTUN SURSTON TULSTON

In transcription, particularly of old records, the name can be confused with GULSTON, ENSTON and EGLETON but these are distinct families.

Name origin

The origin of the surname is obscure. Sometimes surnames are the name of the town or region from which a person has moved. There is a village called Selston in West Nottinghamshire near the border with Derbyshire. Its Old Saxon name is Salistune in the Domesday Book, possibly referring to salt working. There is Winterborne Zelston in Dorset. This was called Wynterborn Selston in 1489 and Winterborne Seleston in 1350, and is thought to have been named after the de Seles family. There is a village of Snelston in Derbyshire. SALSTEN is a Swedish and Norwegian surname, there are SHYLSTON and SHILSTON families in Devon. Did the early ancestors move from Notts or Derby or Devon or Dorset? Or did they arrive with the Vikings?

Historical occurrences of the name

Up to 1900, most members of the family led quiet and uneventful rural lives. There is a scattering of Clerks in Holy Orders, starting with Samuel SELSTONE who was a chaplain of Christ Church Oxford in 1755. The picture is of a label from a Worcestershire sauce bottle which was marketed by Jesse Sulston in the 1880's. In 2002, Sir John Sulston received a Nobel prize for Physiology and Medicine.

Name frequency

The surname is an uncommon one. In the 1881 census in the UK, there were 72 SULSTON and 16 SELSTON entries, plus one family known to have emigrated to Canada. In the 1999 UK electoral register there were 61 SULSTON and 5 SELSTON names listed. There are about a dozen SULSTONs in Canada and 4 SULSTONs in South Africa.

Distribution of the name

The earliest appearance is in Eynsham in west Oxfordshire where William and Dorothy SILSTONE or SELLSTONE were baptising children in 1653. In 1693, William and Elizabeth SILSTONE were admitted as copyholders to the Manor of Newland. After 1750, the name disappears from Eynsham.

In 1705, William SELSTONE appeared in Blackthorn near Ambrosden in the east of Oxfordshire. He founded the line from which all modern SULSTON names are descended. The spelling became fixed between 1730 and 1800. Many members of this line were yeoman farmers until the second world war and moved slowly from the east of Oxfordshire into Buckinghamshire. A few members of the family branched out to find work in London.

In 1750, Thomas SELSTONE with his brother William and John settled in Long Wittenham in Berkshire. Thomas' son, Charles SELSTONE moved to West Thurrock in Essex. All modern SELSTON names are descended from Charles and the name died out in Berkshire. The SELSTONs remained in Essex or North Middlesex until recent times.

SULSTONs are found in Canada, descended from two brothers William and James Andrew who emigrated from Buckinghamshire in the late 19th century. They are also in South Africa, descended from two more brothers who emigrated from Buckinghamshire in the early 1900's.


Civil registration for births, marriages and deaths; census records; Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire wills; parish register entries; miscellaneous findings of the surname. The data is collected into a database and all SULSTONs are linked up into one family tree with William at the head. The SELSTON tree has Charles as its head. The link between William and Charles has not yet been proven.


In October 2008 the SULSTON surname DNA project was initiated. For further information or to participate in this project, please go to