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Family history



Family History


     The only known ancestor of this family line is our 7th great-grandmother Rebecca Royston.  She was born in Northern Ireland circa 1690.  Around 1711 she married a Scotch-Irishman named James Robertson.  At least five known children were born of this union prior to the emigration of this family to America sometime during the 1730’s.  Rebecca was a true pioneer woman having by having traveled with her husband and son William to the far west of the Virginia colony as early as 1740.  After her husband died in 1749 she most likely lived with one of her children.  She passed away in Virginia around 1773.  


Origins of the surname


Origins of the Surname

An Introduction

to the Surname


of the Surname

History of

the Surname

More About Surnames


An Introduction to the Surname

                 The practice of inherited family surnames began in England and France during the late part of the 11th century.     With the passing of generations and the movement of families from place to place many of the original identifying names were altered into some of the versions that we are familiar with today.  Over the centuries, most of our European ancestors accepted their surname as an unchangeable part of their lives.  Thus people rarely changed their surname.  Variations of most surnames were usually the result of an involuntary act such as when a government official wrote a name phonetically or made an error in transcription.  Research into the record of this Royston family line indicates that the variations, meanings and history of this surname is most likely linked to that area of Europe where English, linguistic traditions are commonly found. 



Source(s) & Meaning(s) of the Surname

               Most modern family names are a means conveying lineage.  For the most part, Anglo-Saxon surnames were developed from the following major sources: (1) patronym or matronym, names based on the name of one's father, mother or ancestor, (Johnson, Wilson); (2) occupation (i.e., Carpenter, Cooper, Brewer, Mason); (3) habitational or locational (Middleton, Sidney, or Ireland); (4) topographical (i.e. Hill, Brook, Forrest, Dale); (5) nicknames (i.e., Moody Freeholder, Wise, Armstrong);  (6) status (i.e. Freeman, Bond, Knight); and (7) acquired ornamental names that were simply made up.

     The origins of Royston as a surname is as follows:  (1) habitational name from a place in Hertfordshire, recorded in 1262 as Croyroys, from Old French croiz ‘cross’ (Latin crux, genitive crucis) + the female personal name Royse or Rose). Ekwall mentions forms from only twenty years later in which the place name first more or less assumes its modern form. It is not clear, however, whether this is to be interpreted as ‘Royse’s stone’ (with the second element Middle English ston, from Old English stan) or ‘settlement at (Croiz) Royse’ (with the second element Middle English toun, from Old English tun); and (2)  habitational name from a place in West Yorkshire, so called from the genitive case of the   Old English byname Hror, meaning ‘vigorous’ (or its Old Norse cognate Róarr) + Old English tun ‘enclosure’, ‘settlement’.




History of the Surname

     Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th century. They were not in use in England or Scotland, before the Norman Conquest of 1066, and were first found in the Domesday Book of 1086. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans who had adopted the custom just prior to this time.    Soon thereafter it became a mark of a generally higher socio-economic status and thus seen as disgraceful for a well-bred man to have only one name.  It was not until the middle of the 14th century that surnames became general practice among all people in the British Isles.

     The Royston surname is first found in the West Riding area of Yorkshire, England near Barnsley. Some persons may have gained this surname if they came from the place called Royston in Hertfordshire; this is first recorded as 'Crux Roaisie' in 1184 and as 'Croyroys' in 1262. The original name was thus 'Royse's cross', referring to a cross set up by a certain Lady Royse.  However, the place name is recorded as 'Roiston' by 1286, which may be either 'the settlement at Royse's cross', or 'Royse's stone'. 

     The earliest documentation of the name is recorded as 'Rorestun' in the Domesday Book of 1086. Another very early instance of the name appears to be ‘Roheis(without surname) who was recorded in Hertfordshire in 1184, and a ‘Roiston(without surname) who was documented in 1286.  Later instances of the name include the, March 2nd 1544 christening of Clemens Roiston at Barkway, Hertfordshire.  The marriage of Thomas Royston and Margaret Hurste was recorded in Brodsworth, Yorkshire, on the 15th of May 1631 as well as William Styll and Elizabeth Royston, who were married at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1632.

          Today almost 11 persons per million in the United States have the Royston surname.  The heaviest concentration of the name is found in the state of Tennessee.  In the United Kingdom about 25 persons per million have the Royston surname.    The most significant clustering of the name is found in the eastern areas of Yorkshire, Humberside, and East Midlands.



More About Surname Meanings & Origins

English Surnames

Although the Domesday Book compiled by William the Conqueror required surnames, the use of them in the British Isles did not become fixed until the time period between 1250 and 1450.  The broad range of ethnic and linguistic roots for British surnames reflects the history of Britain as an oft-invaded land. These roots include, but are not limited to, Old English, Middle English, Old French, Old Norse, Irish, Gaelic, Celtic, Pictish, Welsh, Gaulish, Germanic, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.  Throughout the British Isles, there are basically five types of native surnames. Some surnames were derived from a man's occupation (Carpenter, Taylor, Brewer, Mason), a practice that was commonplace by the end of the 14th century.  Place names reflected a location of residence and were also commonly used (Hill, Brook, Forrest, Dale) as a basis for the surname, for reasons that can be easily understood.  Nicknames that stuck also became surnames.  About one-third of all surnames in the United Kingdom are patronymic in origin, and identified the first bearer of the name by his father (or grandfather in the case of some Irish names). When the coast of England was invaded by William The Conqueror in the year 1066, the Normans brought with them a store of French personal names, which soon, more or less, entirely replaced the traditional more varied Old English personal names, at least among the upper and middle classes. A century of so later, given names of the principal saints of the Christian church began to be used. It is from these two types of given name that the majority of the English patronymic surnames are derived and used to this day.  Acquired ornamental names were simply made up, and had no specific reflection on the first who bore the name. They simply sounded nice, or were made up as a means of identification, generally much later than most surnames were adopted.


Variations of the surname


Variations of
the Surname


Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to unfold and expand often leading to an overwhelming number of variants.  As such one can encounter great variation in the spelling of surnames because in early times, spelling in general and thus the spelling of names was not yet standardized.  Later on spellings would change with the branching and movement of families.  Spelling variations of this family name include: Royston, Roysten, Royster, Roister, Roisten and many others.   


The complexity of researching records is compounded by the fact that in many cases an ancestors surname may also have been misspelled.  This is especially true when searching census documents.   The Soundex Indexing System was developed in an effort to assist with identifying spelling variations for a given surname.  Soundex is a method of indexing names in the 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 US Census, and can aid genealogists in their research.  The Soundex Code for Royston is R235.  Other surnames sharing this Soundex Code:  RIGDON | ROYSDON | ROYSTON | RUSHTON |.


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Coat of arms


Armorial Bearings & Motto(es)

In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armored warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe.  In the British Isles the College of Arms (founded in 1483) is the Royal corporation of heralds who record proved pedigrees and grant armorial bearings.

Fig. 1



Fig. 2



There are at least 4 associated armorial bearings for Royston and close variant spellings recorded in Sir Bernard Burke’s General Armory. The following additional information has been found regarding the coats-of-arms shown at the left:

FIGURE 1: This coat-of-arms has been attributed to Royston but not described by Burke.  The red fesse which impales a chequy of white and black could indicate a Royston of Hertfordshire, England as in figure 2.

FIGURE 2: This coat of arms was granted to Royston-Priory, in Hertfordshire.  It is described by Burke as a silver shield containing a red fesse which impales a chequy of white and black. 

FIGURE 3: Burke describes this coat of arms as belonging to a Royston.  It shows a green shield containing a white chevron between three golden bucks.   The Crest (not shown) features two lions’ paws coming out of a ducal coronet (crown) of gold.

FIGURE 4: These arms are attributed by Burke to a Royston, and are described as having a red shield containing a white chevron between three keys.



There are no known mottoes attributed to Royston.


Fig. 3

Fig. 4


A Coat of Arms is defined as a group of emblems and figures (heraldic bearings) usually arranged on and around a shield and serving as the special insignia of some person, family, or institution.  Except for a few cases, there is really no such thing as a standard "coat of arms" for a surname.  A coat of arms, more properly called an armorial achievement, armorial bearings or often just arms for short, is a design usually granted only to a single person not to an entire family or to a particular surname.  Coats of arms are inheritable property, and they generally descend to male lineal descendents of the original arms grantee.  The rules and traditions regarding Coats of Arms vary from country to country. Therefore a Coat of Arms for an English family would differ from that of a German family even when the surname is the same.  The art of designing, displaying, describing, and recording arms is called heraldry. The use of coats of arms by countries, states, provinces, towns and villages is called civic heraldry.   Some of the more prominent elements incorporated into a  coat of arms are :

Crest - The word crest is often mistakenly applied to a coat of arms.  The crest was a later development arising from the love of pageantry.  Initially the crest consisted of charges painted onto a ridge on top of the helmet.

Wreath or TorseThe torse is a twist of cloth or wreath underneath and part of a crest. Always shown as six twists, the first tincture being the tincture of the field, the second the tincture of the metal, and so on.

Mantling – The mantling is a drapery tied to the helmet above the shield. It forms a backdrop for the shield.

Helm or Helmet - The helmet or helm is situated above the shield and bears the torse and crest. The style of helmet displayed varies according to rank and social status, and these styles developed over time, in step with the development of actual military helmets.

Shield or Arms - The basis of all coats of arms.  At their simplest, arms consist of a shield with a plain field on which appears a geometrical shape or object.  The items appearing on the shield are known as charges.

Motto - The motto was originally a war cry, but later mottoes often expressed some worthy sentiment. It may appear at the top or bottom of a family coat of arms.

Direct ancestors


Ancestral Lineage

Descendant Register

Generation 1


Rebecca Royston-1 was born on Abt. 1689 in Coleraine, Londonderry, N. Ireland. She died Abt. 1784 in Augusta County, Virginia. She married James Robertson on Abt. 1711 in Coleraine, Londonderry, Northern Ireland?, son of Robert Robertson and Mary Berry. He was born on 01 Oct 1685 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He died on 17 May 1749 in Augusta County, Virginia.

Children of Rebecca Royston and James Robertson are:


2.           John Robertson, B: Abt. 1712 in Londonderry, N. Ireland??, D: Bef. 06 Aug 1771.


3.           Matthew Robertson, B: Abt. 1713 in Londonderry, N. Ireland??, D: Abt. 1786 in  Augusta County, Virginia.


4.           James Robertson, B: Abt. 1716 in Coleraine, Antrim, Northern Ireland, D: Abt.  1754 in Augusta County, Virginia, USA, M: 1739.


5.           Elizabeth Robertson, B: Abt. 1718 in Londonderry, N. Ireland??.


6.           William Robertson, B: 05 Feb 1720 in Coleraine, Londonderry, N. Ireland, D: 17 Oct 1812 in Staunton, Augusta Co., Virginia, M: 14 Jan 1749 in Augusta County,  Virginia.


Additional information about our DIRECT ANCESTORS  as well as a complete listing of individuals with this surname may be reviewed by clicking on the following LINK.


MMPS Surname Locator

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Ancestral locations



by Location


Researching the locations where our ancestors lived has provided us with valuable evidence needed to fill-in the gaps in our family trees.  It has also led us to many interesting facts that enhance the overall picture of each family group.

Locations of

Direct Ancestors

Locational Distribution

of  this Surname

Where In the World

are my Ancestors?


Locatiof Direct Ancestors

Locations of Our Direct Ancestors

The names of states and counties on the following list were derived from the known places where the Direct Ancestors in the “Ancestral Lineage” (see above) were born, married, and / or died.









Augusta County

Use this LINK to find out more about the locations listed above.


Locational distributionstors

Locational Distribution of This Surname

     Knowing the geographical areas where the surname you are researching is clustered and distributed is an indispensable tool in deciding where to focus your research.  We believe that the “Public Profiler” website will open up to you a wide range of solutions which implement current research in spatial analysis.  This site provides an array of local spatial information tools useful to the genealogist.

          The information presented below shows where the Royston surname is distributed within the United States as well as in the United Kingdom the country of origin of this family.  In addition is a listing of the top countries in the world where this surname is highly clustered. 

United States of America

Top Countries


European Country of Origin
















* frequency per million

Click on the LINK to the right to see more information about the World distribution of a surname.  You can

get greater detail for any of the following maps by clicking on the area, i.e state, county that you are interested in.

Wjere are my ancestors Ancestors

Where in the World
are My Ancestors?

Resources which enhance our knowledge of the places inhabited by our ancestors are almost as important as their names. The LINK to the right will take you to Maps, Gazetteers,   and  other  helpful   resources 



that will assist in discovering Ancestral Locations.  These web sites comprise only a small portion of what is available for researchers interested in learning more about where their ancestors lived.

Migration routes


Migrations of the
American Family

       During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries hundreds of thousands of Europeans made the perilous ocean voyage to America.  For many it was an escape from economic hardship and religious persecution.  For most it was an opportunity to start over, own their own land, and make a better future for their descendents.  Immigration records show a number of people bearing the name of Royston, or one of its variants, as arriving in North America between the 17th and 20th centuries.  Some of these immigrants were: Ann Royston, who arrived in Virginia sometime between 1673 and 1674; Jno Royston, who came to Virginia in 1674; James Royston, who settled in Maryland in 1678.(2).

     Tracing our own family’s paths of migration can prove crucial in identifying previous generations and eventually, figuring out where and how they arrived in the “New World” as well as where they eventually settled.  Knowing the network of trails American pioneers traveled can help you guess where to start looking.  The trail map(s) provided below may assist you in understanding the routes that our direct ancestors of this family may have taken to find new homes and opportunities in the vast area now encompassed by the United States.

Use the following links to find more early immigrants with this surname:

$ Search Immigration Records; or Free Ship’s Passenger lists at


Migration to Augusta County, VA c. 1739

         Beginning in the late 1730’s Scots-Irish pioneers like the Royston-Robertson family began streaming into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia as they were  encouraged by the Virginia colonial government to populate the valley for a very simple reason: the Scots-Irish men, women, and children would serve as a human buffer between the civilized areas of Virginia east of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the hostile French and Indian population beyond the Appalachian Mountains to the west in the Ohio River valley. Although we believe that James Robertson brought his family to America in 1737 we are not sure as to when or where he arrived.  The two best possibilities for places of arrival would have been Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Colony of Virginia.   Either way the map below shows each of the most utilized travel routes to reach Augusta County, Virginia from the aforementioned places of arrival.

Route From Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

    Most of the early Scots-Irish settlers who settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia came from southeastern Pennsylvania, primarily Lancaster County.  Thus it is quite possible that the Royston-Robertson family traveled to Augusta county from this location.  If so they probably joined the throngs of their contemporaries who would cross the Susquehanna River to journey west on the Great Wagon Road.  Eventually they would reach the north-south running “Great Warrior & Trading Path” near present day Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  Here they would follow the trail south toward Virginia.  Crossing the Potomac River by Williams’ or Watkins Ferry, near the later site of Williamsport, Maryland they would follow the narrow footpath along the Shenandoah River.  This route would take them through occasional clearings in the forest of the Valley of Virginia, they would come after many days’ journey to a gap in an earlier trail, named Buffalo Gap.  They would end their journey seventeen miles southwest of the valley near a way station that would eventually grow into the town of Staunton, and later the county seat of Augusta County, Virginia.  In 1740 James Robertson purchased 385 acres of land in the southwestern section of Beverly Manor and settled his family on this property.

Route Across Virginia

              If the Royston-Robertson family came directly from Northern Ireland to the Colony of Virginia  they may have started their journey west from the vicinity of the fall line of the James River at the future site of Richmond.   The most common route taken from that point to the area of Augusta County was called Three Notch'd Road (aka Three Chopt Road). This route was a major east-west route across central Virginia during the colonial-era.  It is believed to have taken its name from a distinctive marking of three notches cut into trees to blaze the trail. By the 1730s, the trail extended westerly to the Shenandoah Valley, crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains at Jarmans Gap.  In modern times, a large portion of U.S. Route 250 in Virginia follows the historic path of the Three Notch'd Road, as does nearby Interstate 64.




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Source documents




The documents contained within the “Source Documents Archives” have been located during my research of this family, and used as evidence to prove many of the facts contained within the database of this family’s record.


     Most of these documents can be considered as primary or secondary evidence.  Primary evidence is usually defined as the best available to prove the fact in question, usually in an original document or record.  Secondary evidence is in essence all that evidence which is inferior in its origin to primary evidence. That does not mean secondary evidence is always in error, but there is a greater chance of error.  Examples of this type of evidence would be a copy of an original record, or oral testimony of a record’s contents.  Published genealogies and family histories are also secondary evidence.

     Classifying evidence as either primary or secondary does not tell anything about its accuracy or ultimate value.  This is especially true of secondary evidence.  Thus it is always a good idea to ask the following questions: (1) How far removed from the original is it, (when it is a copy)?; (2) What was the reason for the creation of the source which contains this evidence?; and (3) Who was responsible for creating this secondary evidence and what interest did they have in its accuracy?

SOURCE:  Greenwood, Val D., The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 2nd edition, Genealogical Publishing  Co., Baltimore, MD 21202, 1990, pgs. 62-63


You are welcome to download any of the documents contained within this archive.

  Should you encounter a problem obtaining a copy you may get in touch with

 us via the contact information found at the end of this page.

Use the following LINK to view the source documents pertaining

 to this family.



Web resources


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General Surname Resources


Our SURNAME LOCATOR AND RESOURCES web page contains the following: (1) links that will take you to an updated listing of all surnames as posted in our three databases at the Rootsweb WorldConnect Project; (2) the Surname List Finder a tool that finds sound-alike matches for a given surname from among RootsWeb's thousands of surname lists; (3) the Soundex Converter that can be used to find the soundex code for a surname, plus other surnames/spellings sharing the same soundex code;  (4) Surname Message Boards the world's largest online genealogy community with over 17 Million posts on more than 161,000 boards; (5) Surname Mailing Lists of all surnames having mailing lists at RootsWeb, as well as topics that include (6) Surname Heraldy, and  (7) Mapping a Surname. 


Your genealogy research of this surname can be facilitated by use of SURNAME WEB. This website links to the majority of the surname data on the web, as well as to individual family trees, origin and surname meaning if known, and many other related genealogy resources. 


SURNAME FINDER provides easy access to free and commercial resources for 1,731,359 surnames. On each surname specific "finder" page, you can search a variety of online databases all pre-programmed with your surname.


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SurnameDB Free database of surname meanings - This site SurnameDB.Com contains a large FREE to access database (almost 50,000 surnames) on the history and meaning of family last names.

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