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Home: Surnames: Esling Family Genealogy Forum

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The story of the ESLINGs
Posted by: Micheil Eslea MacDonald Date: January 31, 2000 at 06:28:08
  of 10

This is a brand new site and possibly needs some explanation.

ESLING is probably the ORIGINAL surname but a great number of variations have evolved over at least the last 500 years, namely:-

Eslinge, Esteling , Estelinge, Easling ,
Essling, Esterling, Easterling,Eastling, Eslin, Eslen, Easlin, Easlen, Eastlea, Estlea, Easlea, Easley, Eassley,Essley, Essly, Esley, Essla, Eslea etc.

It originated as a surname on the east coast of England in the aftermath of the invasion of various peoples of 'Anglo-Saxon' stock who arrived from northern Germany and southern Denmark & Sweden [ the Jutland peninsular and the islands between Danish Jutland and Sweden] after the Romans withdrew from Britain at the beginning of the 5th century A.D., i.e. the early 400's.

Some very rare surnames have developed from the personal names of the tribal leaders of those early groups and ESLING is one of the oldest. It derives from one such tribal leader called ESLA, who is mentioned - for what it is worth - in the dynastic tree for the British Royal Family as having arrived in Britain from N. Gernmany or Southern Denmark about 411 A D , and being 15 generations before the greatest of the English medieval kings - Alfred the Great, who died in 899 A.D.

The people who were part ESLEA's retinue had come to depend on him as a military leader who could guarantee their security and economic survival. In early Germanic or Scandinavian terms, they were classed as ESLA's ' inga ', a linguistic term meaning a dependant or follower.

The ESLINGA were there identified from very early times as stemming from that source as ESLA's people, and they can be found in the period after 1500, still living on the eastern seaboard of Britain, from mainly the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk, Linconshire and Leicestershire in and around the Midland and East Anglian Region, right up to Aberdeenshire in Scotland.

ESLA's involvement as a chieftain/ sub-king of the Northumbrian dynasty saw him ranging up and down the east coast in all probability during his life time. There is a place name in Northumbria called ESLINGTON, which means ' the tun [township] of Esla's inga [people or followers].

If you have forbears who carried this surname or you do so today, it derives almost certainly from this exceptional character. Allowing for the absence of any standard spelling system in the English language until comparatively recently [ William Shakespeare spelled his surname in at least 22 different ways in his lifetime, and HE was literate ] the variations in this surname have evolved because 'old England' [ pre- 1837, when the Registration of Births Deaths and Marriages were made possible - though NOT compulsory till later ] relied upon the Minister /Vicar/Priest of the local Parish Church recording Baptisms and Marriages - and noting Burials - from people who were quite often not literate and spoke in an accent or dialect with which he was not familiar. He therefore recorded the name he HEARD as he assumed it should be spelled.

When folk migrated from Britain to North America or Australasia, they found that the new countries had established demographic systems which were much more standardised, which seems to be why many of the ESLINGs and EASLEAs etc were formalised into EASLEY after arriving in the Americas after the 1500's. Much later, the central European migrants arriving at Staten Island were greeted by Scots immigration officers who tranlated the unpronounceable Polish/ Hungarian/ Russian names into solid British - though more often Scottish - names. Which is why the great American composer Aaron Copeland bore a good Scottish name and not the 'KAPLAN' that his father tried to get the immigration officer to comprehend. What's in a a name ?

Welcome to this site and thank whoever had the idea to start it.

Until someone owns up to just that, I'd be happy to answer queries if you post it on this site or you could E-mail me direct:

or write to me:

Micheil Eslea MacDonald at

8 Lows Wark,
PERTH, Scotland, PH1 3JX

Phone & Fax [01738 ] 583502

international 44 1738 583 502



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