Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Variants: Astell, Astill, Astles
Category: 2 - A study where research using core genealogical datasets and transcriptions is well under way, but currently in some countries only.
DNA website: www.familytreedna.com/group-join.aspx?Group=Astle
Contact: Mr Peter Astle
The Astle One-Name study registered in March 2007 is a natural progression of research into my Astle ancestry which has focused on an area of East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire around the town of Burton Upon Trent. I am now extending the scope of this research to include the whole of the United Kingdom and other countries where Astles have settled such as the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa.
I am more than willing to share my research with others who are interested in this name, and would welcome enquiries, assistance and suggestions! I also have a personal website for the study you will find a link in the 'Links' area at the bottom of this page.
A common theory is that the name originates from a place name or names, most notably Astle (meaning East Hill) in Cheshire, and several places called Astley in other counties such as Lancashire, Shropshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
Detailed and extensive research regarding the origin of the Astle surname was carried out by Tony Astle, when he was Vice-principal of Brooklyn Technical College in Great Barr Birmingham in the 1980s. He was kind enough to give me a copy of his research report "Cauldron of the Gods, the search for a surname" and it is from this document that the following summary is drawn.
The Astle and Astley families are not related, the Astles were not usually from the aristocracy, although some were minor members of the gentry, and independent peasant farmers.
Wills and parish registers show that in the 1500's the name was spelt in a variety of ways Astle, Astel, Astell, Astill, Astyll, Astull, etc. These surnames could vary within the same family and also the same individuals. However, this indicates that the central "t" of the surname was then pronounced, unlike today when it has been dropped in some areas of the country such as Derbyshire through differences in regional pronunciation.
In the middle ages the name Astell although not common, was known in the East Midlands, East Anglia and the North East. It was most prominent in South Leicestershire, North Northamptonshire, Norfolk, Lincolnshire and London.
Whilst the origin of some Astles is likely to be locational, (e.g. "de Astell" in Cheshire or "de Asthull" in York and Oxfordshire) the lack of a "de" prefix to the Astell name in the Derbyshire/Staffordshire region indicates it was a personal name, probably derived from the longer form Asketil.
Asketil was more common before 1200, being gradually replaced by the shorter form Astel. Sometimes these names were interchangeable, and the same person could be referred to by either. A good example of this transition from Asketil to Astel comes from the register of the Black Princeâs administration (1346-1365).
"In 1365, one Robert Astel of Hazelbech, Northants, asked the Black Prince to confirm his rightful ownership of one of his lands in Hazelbech. He produced a document providing that the land had been given to 'William son of Asketil of Hazelbech and his heirs'. Robert Astel was of course one of these heirs."
Asketil was a Danish name, derived from 'Aes' a god of Odin's tribe, and 'Ketil' a kettle or cauldron, and references to Asketil have been found in 12th century surveys by the Monks of Burton Abbey. In 874 the Mercian capital Repton (near Burton) was sacked by an army of Danes who had sailed up the river Trent, led by four kings one of which was called Asketil. Subsequently these Danish kings were allocated lands in a partitioned Mercia corresponding to the later shires of Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby and Leicester.
On the 1881 census the distribution of the ASTLE surname is chiefly in East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire (435), with another large grouping in Cheshire and Lancashire (271). Together these areas account for 72% of Astles recorded on this census.
Nottinghamshire (60), Leicestershire (30), Warwickshire (45) and Worcestershire (19) form a band around the Staffordshire/Derbyshire grouping and account for a further 21%.
Extraction of all Astle entries in the Registers of Births Marriages and Deaths is proceeding and the current years covered are:
Extraction of all Astle entries in the UK census returns 1841-1901 is also in progress.
The Astle Y DNA Study has just been been launched in April 2009 by Marilyn M Astle and her brother who live in Canada.
They wish to learn if/ how they might be related to other Astle families in North America, England and elsewhere, and invite participation from representatives of all variations of the name from different locations.
They have started by testing a descendant of the younger James Astles, a discharged British soldier, who landed with a group of United Empire Loyalists at New Carlisle, Quebec in 1784 and settled there.
For more information about the study go to the Astle One-name Study Pages which contain surname distribution maps, military records and brief biographies, notes on famous Astle(s), and places called Astle.
To find out more about the Astle DNA Study click here.
You may find our other Guild websites of interest: