The ALSTON tree
I have been researching my family history for some years now. My tree is quite large, having grown "sideways" as I have followed up distant cousins and branches which I found interesting.
When I started the search, I was convinced that I would find my father's family originating from the hamlet of Alston, on the outskirts of Longridge in Lancashire. Nope. The name settled down as Alston as late as 1891 when my great grandfather married. Clergymen and other officials commonly wrote down what they THOUGHT they heard. Often this was influenced by names they had heard in the past. The priest at that wedding almost certainly had links to the Roman Catholic chapel at Alston, and the Alston surname was certainly more common in the district. The family apeared in the 1871, 1881 and 1891 censuses as AUSTIN. The 1861 has them as AUSTEAD. Getting closer to the truth. In 1851 the family are shown as ALSTEAD.
My great great great great grandparents' marriage in 1791 wa the first time that the Halstead surname appeared in the area around Leyland. Subsequent mentions of the family mostly drop the H, but not always. My great great great grandfather Robert Alstead's surname appears in record with at least EIGHT different spellings, none of them matching mine. I stick with Alstead because that is how his baptism and burial records appear, and three of his sons carried on the spelling in their families.
Christopher Halstead and Margaret Simm married at St. Andrew's in Leyland, but where did he spring from? The Halstead name is much more common in the area around Burnley, so that stood a good chance. Christopher rented a house from the Towneley family who owned the Cuerden estate, and son Robert became the gamekeeper for Cuerden. The Towneley family also had lands in Extwistle, east of Burnley. Might Christopher have moved with his job? The IGI tantalisingly showed a baptism in Colne for a Christer Halstead, but the official baptism register had a different surname for this chap, so I ignored it for some time. Eventually I had the brainwave of looking at the Bishops' Transcripts for the parish. Success! Not only did "Christer" have the suname of Halstead, but this register had extra details which the "official" baptism register did not. It told me that the child was born in Waterside, the locations being entirely absent from what had proved to be a partial copy, probably made to replace a damaged original.
Because the Alstead name proved interesting, I've followed it up. There's an organisation called the Halsted Trust whch promotes One-Name Studies, and has extracted Birth, Marriage and Death registrations for the surname and all its variants. My ALSTON tree includes virtually every person in the country with the surname ALSTEAD.
Here is a link to a copy of the Alston tree on RootsWeb. Unfortunately, RootsWeb is no longer as useful as it once was, because Ancestry now only supports a minimal view of the data.
Here is a link to a copy of the Alston tree on Ancestry.