In 2005, William Byron Ayton of California published his long-awaited book on the early origins of the Ayton name, now available in CD-ROM format. An abstract of the book appears below, and anyone interested in obtaining a copy of the work should contact Ian Hall, providing a little background on their interest in the family and a suitable mailing address. Bill has decided to make the work available free of charge to interested researchers, but has requested that any recipients make a suitable donation to a humanitarian charity of their choice in recognition of his efforts. For the time being, Ian is also providing CD copies, packaging and postage free of charge on the same basis.


Owing to the existence of at least four possible geographic origins, a plethora of phone-tically-similar surnames and a confusing variety of Renaissance spellings, the genealogy of the Anglian locative surnames Ayton and Eighteen in England and Ayto(u)n, Aiton and Eaton in Scotland often is exasperatingly complicated. At the time that parish churches in England and Scotland began recording vital statistics of their parish-ioners in the mid-16th century, people surnamed Ayton or any of several equivalents thereof were recorded near all four of the four supposed eponyms of the surname: Ayton, Berwickshire; Eighton (Banks), Durham; and Great/Little Ayton and West/East Ayton in the North Riding of Yorkshire. By the end of the century, moreover, people of this sur-name were recorded in eight different parishes in East Anglia (collectively Norfolk and Suffolk) and other South England locales, where there were no other apparent eponyms for the surname (with the possible exception of Heydon, Norfolk).

If nothing else, this work differentiates Ayton from several other phonetically- or ety-mologically-similar modern surnames: Acton, Aydon, Ayrson, Eaton, Eden, Eyton, Haydon, Hayton and Heaton. Inspired by Roger Bellinger’s findings, the author devised an innovative orthographic technique and discovered a few examples of “run-on” spellings, mis-transcribed names and other errors in the IGIs, thereby widen-ing the base of records available to modern Ayton researchers.

Drawing from genealogy, orthography and linguistics, the author and George William Ayton demonstrated that, depending on which English dialect was spoken, any of the following spellings were variants of Ayton in the earlier records of any given parish in Northeast England: Aiton, Arton, Aton, Aydon, Ayton, Eaton, Eden, Edon, Etton, Eyton, Ha(i)ton, Harton, Hayton, Heaton and possibly some others. Moreover, these findings led to the discovery of a new candidate for the earliest-recorded Ayton in East Anglia.

Next, employing a classical test from statistics in a novel way, the author confirmed what Ayton researchers have long supposed: the preponderance of East Anglia Ayton mi-grated there from Yorkshire (as indirectly shown by the works of McKinley and Pound and discovered by John Bowden Ayton). Moreover, these analyses (1) identified (with some unexpectedly-high levels of confidence) the specific probable Northeastern locales of origin for five of the nine earliest-known families of the name in East Anglia; and (2) revealed that Ayton also migrated from two different linguistically-distinct locales near Eighton, Durham (a finding that perhaps had not been suspected previously). 

Lastly, combining methods from cultural anthropology with information from genealogy, history, geography, sociology and paleometeorology, a number of admittedly-educated guesses were made to shed light on who the earliest Ayton were and why and how they migrated to East Anglia, where they seem to have become the progenitors of most of the modern Ayton, et. al., not descended from the Nordic-Scots of ancient Berwickshire.

Some of the methods employed in this study might have applications to researchers of other surnames—locative ones in particular.


Anyone with queries or feedback regarding this work is invited to contact the coordinator for this page Ian Hall.

This page was last updated 16 May 2007