The Guild of One-Name Studies defines a variant as a ‘name spelling which varies from the primary name spelling (or another variant spelling) used by that person’s ancestors and which is:
- A name spelling that the person was known to have used, through signature evidence on wills, marriage bonds etc or other documents originating from the individual concerned, or
- A name spelling used by officials on a consistent and persistent basis over a period of years.’
In the Eastlake study, variants are generally associated with surname spellings persisting consistently for at least two generations. However, it turns out that all variants identified to date in the study continue to persist today. These variants are shown below along with the number of times they occur in the reconstruction to date.
As described in the Origin section, the original surname was Byestelake which dates to no later than 1244. Within a century or so, the by- prefix was dropped in line with more general changes to the English language, leaving the forms Estelake and Estlake until about the mid-16th century. Before 1600, East- was replacing Est- also in line with more general changes in the language.
The Cornwall Effect
Within the branches of the family that stayed in Devon, the surname has remained Eastlake to the present day. The only minor exception is that within a very small group in Plymouth, the earlier Estlake form persisted through the 17th century.
However, one family left West Devon in the mid-1500s and settled in Bodmin, Cornwall about 30 miles away from Bratton Clovelly. Here the surname underwent dramatic change whether due to dialect, illiteracy or more general language changes.
Several features of the Eastlake surname make it prone to variant and deviant names. First, it has a lot of vowels that can be changed to other vowels, dropped or added. Second, the ‘t’ before the ‘l’ is often dropped. Third, the ‘k’ can be replaced by ‘ck’. In the course of two hundred years in the Bodmin parish register, the following forms occur in rough chronological order: Es(t)lake, Es(t)lack(e), Estlick(e), Eas(t)lake, Eastlacke and Eastlick.
The name continued to change frequently even in the 1800s, a typical example being Henry Easlick, born 1792 in Fowey, Cornwall. He marries as Eastlick, appears as Easlick in the 1841 and 1851 census, Estlick in 1861 and Easlick on his death record. Even more confusing is the fact that often at much later dates, these variant forms can transform back to Eastlake again. There is at least one case where blood brothers are buried side-by-side as Eslick and Eastlake (along with another blood brother whose surname is Rickless, but that’s another story).
When searching for individuals in the records, we use the wildcard E*s*l*k* wherever possible to ensure that most variants and deviants are found. This wildcard captures all known variants except the relatively recent Easlic form.
The Impact of Emigration
Not all of these forms persisted in England. However, the late 17th and 18th centuries were a time of overseas migration for Eastlake families and some of these forms seemingly became ‘frozen’ in time. Although the form Eastlack made only a fleeting appearance in Bodmin, Robert Estlack left Cornwall probably in the 1620s for Bermuda. His son Francis resettled in New Jersey in about 1680 and gave rise to the Eastlack form that would be our dominant surname form in the early U.S. censuses. The Estlake form is another one that still persists in the States today although it had completely disappeared from England around the turn of the 18th century. As in England, North America also witnessed the return of some variant forms to Eastlake, for example when John Eslick or Estlick migrated to Canada from England in the early 1800s and his many descendants were named Eastlake within two or three generations.
Other forms appeared anew overseas. Isaac Eslick was a sea captain who raised his family in Rhode Island from about 1740. His son Isaac married as Esleck but the name form settled at Esleeck which still persists today. Much later, at the turn of the 20th century another three new variants arose in different states: Esleck from an Eslick father, Easlic from an Eslick father and Estlock from an Estlack father. At about the same time, an Eastlack father reverted to the Estlack form which his branch of the family had probably not used for more than a century.
Nowadays, all of these forms persist but the Eslick surname is now by far the most dominant form in North America.
It was a completely different experience for those carrying the surname to the South Pacific. Probably because of the relative lateness of these migrations, almost without exception the Eastlake and Eslick surnames are the only forms found in Australia and New Zealand. Eslick is the only form found in South Africa, arising from a migration near the end of the 19th century.
The surname map below approximates the evolution of the Eastlake surname in its major places of settlement worldwide.