Owston and its variant Ouston is a locative name that contains the Old Norse element “austr,” meaning east; and the Old English suffix “tun” for farmstead. While several English villages bear the names Owston, Ouston, and Oulston; none of the existing families can be satisfactorily connected to any of these locations. Most, if not all, Owston and Oustons can be traced to one of two Owston families that originated in and around the Vale of Pickering that straddles the counties of North Yorkshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire.
The first occurrence of the name in the region was the 1452 recording of the will of John Oustyn of Place Newton in the parish of Wintringham. During the next century, several Owston families were recorded in several nearby parishes. While other early occurrences appear elsewhere in Britain suggesting multiple origins of the surname, it does not appear that descendants of these other families have continued to the present.
The current Owstons and Oustons can be traced to two distinct families that originated in Sherburn in Harford Lythe and Thornholme in the parish of Burton Agnes. While traditional genealogical methods cannot trace these families to a common ancestor, Y-DNA results conclude that both lineages share a common patriarch who probably lived in the 15th century. Three older families from Staxton in Willerby and Ganton lived during the 15th to 18th centuries in the region.
The information of this blog comes from the combined original research of Roger J. Ouston, Timothy J. Owston, James M. Owston, and others.
Join us as we explore the etymology of the name and the history of those who bore it. The Owston/Ouston One-Name Study is registered with The Guild of One-Name Studies.