The story of the Eastlack family in the United States is the story of the descendants of Francis Estlack, a Quaker minister who arrived with his family in the recently settled Newtown Colony in the west of New Jersey around 1680. We believe that Francis was the son of Robert Estlack born 1593, a grandson of Robert Estlake/Estlack who first brought the surname from Devon to Bodmin, Cornwall in the mid-1500s. Robert the grandson probably migrated to Bermuda following the death of his first wife and child in 1618, only a decade after the island was permanently settled by English colonists.
Although baptism records have not been found, Francis helpfully wrote in a later religious treatise ‘Bermuda where I drew my first breath’ and we estimate that he was born between 1625 and 1630. He grew up to become a schoolmaster at Warwick Academy, founded in 1662 and one of the oldest schools in the Western Hemisphere. About this time, the newly established Quakers began visiting Bermuda and records of Francis and his family can then be seen which show the imposition of various fines for their adherence to Quaker beliefs. Religious discourse was often carried out in the form of pamphlets and we are fortunate that our cousins, Tom Eastlack and his father Rev John Eastlack, were able to secure a copy of one of Francis’ pamphlet many decades ago on a visit to England. We are even more fortunate that they published a book in 1970 entitled The Eastlack Family, containing decades of research on this branch of the surname and available through the Gloucester County Historical Society.
With the arrival of a new governor in Bermuda, the Quakers faced increasing persecution and Francis moved with his wife and children to New Jersey in about 1680. However, it seems possible that some of Francis’ older children, or perhaps nephews and nieces, remained in Bermuda since the surname persisted there well into the 1700s. It was the right time for Quakers in this area of the United States, with Quakers governing much of New Jersey and Quaker William Penn establishing the colony of Pennsylvania in 1682. Francis’ children married within the Quaker community and built the foundations of a line that would number 200 by the time of the 1850 census.
The family remained near their original settlement through the 18th century but as new territories settled and affordable land became available, the inevitable westward migration began. The following maps have been compiled based on the Eastlack families that we have reconstructed to date and, although it took a while to move past the Rockies, the families can now be found from coast to coast. Back in England, the Eastlack form of our surname only made a fleeting appearance in 17th century Cornwall and, with minor exception, it is only found in the United States to this day.
Yet, even with all this migration within the States, New Jersey remains by far the location with the highest frequency of Eastlacks (FPM denotes frequency per million), according to telephone directories and electoral rolls from 2000 to 2005. There were 278 Eastlacks in the year 2000 US Census.
Edward Harris, ‘Warwick Academy: The Oldest School in Bermuda’, The Royal Gazette Weekender, 7 April 2012, accessed at https://www.bermudarentals.com/wp-content/uploads/HMWarwick.pdf, [accessed 16 June 2016].
Samuel Estlack, ‘A Bermudas Preacher Proved a Persecutor being a Just Tryal of Sampson Bond’s Book’, (London, 1683).
Public Profiler Worldnames, http://worldnames.publicprofiler.org/, [accessed 16 June 2016].