The Beginning...The Estep Name


It all started when...

Caergwrle Castle, also known as Hope Castle.

Caergwrle Castle, also known as Hope Castle.

Theory 1:

Two major theories exist about the origin of the name Estep.  One states that the Castillo brothers, whose ancestral home is believed to be in Estepona in the Andalusian area of Spain, were brought to England by William the Conqueror in the late 11th century as a reward for honorable service during the Crusades.  This theory is supported by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be an English derivative for Estep. The Estep Family Journal cites Russel A. Estep in Estep Genealogy & Family History as describing an ancient Roman family using the name Este.  In 218 B.C. the “p” was added to the name after the Romans conquered Astepa, a Moorish town near Gibraltar, and changed the town’s name to Estepona in honor of the Este family.  The name was found throughout Europe during the Middle Ages with various spellings and pronunciations.  

This makes a good story; however, the facts don’t seem to support this theory. The history of Estepona says that the town’s modern name came from the Moorish, Astabbuna.[1]  Agatha, a daughter of William I, was betrothed to Alphonso VI (1030-1109) of Castile, but Castile did not include the area of Estepona (which was controlled by the Moors), so it is unlikely that this was the ancestral home of Alphonso.  One source claims that Agatha died on her way to Spain to marry Alphonso[2]; another source says that a daughter of William I (supposedly Agatha) was sought in marriage by two rival kings of Spain who were brothers, one probably Alphonso VI, but she protested going to Spain, died a virgin, and is buried at Bayeux.[3]   In either case, the Spanish “brothers”, even if one had married William’s daughter, would not have migrated to England.  The wife would have lived in Spain, so it is doubtful that some form of the name “Estep” was brought to England by Spanish crusaders.

Theory 2:

The second theory is that the Estep name originated near the Welsh town of

East Hope in 



Caergwrle Castle, also known as Hope Castle.

the medieval province of Powys.  When spoken in Welsh dialect, the name East Hope sounds like E-stup. The parish of Hope is located in the present-day county Wrexham which lies on the Welsh-English border.  This area was settled as early as the Romans, and after their withdrawal from Britain, this post was occupied by native defenders.  The Hope castle was first known as Caergwrle castle (derived from the ancient British “Caer gawr lleng” or “fortress of the gigantic legion”), and the first mention of the area using the name “Hope” was in the Norman survey (The Domesday Book, 1085).  The castle was bestowed upon Davydd, brother of the Prince of Wales, about 1280, and has also been known as East Hope to distinguish it from North Hope or Northop.  The name Hope may have come from the Welsh “hob”, meaning a swelling, derived from the rolling hills around the castle.    There is also a village called Easthope in the county of Shropshire, near the Welsh border, which lies a little over 50 miles southeast of Hope Parish in Wales.  A search of internet sites containing modern vital records from England revealed numerous occurrences of the names Estep, 


Easthope, and Eastop.  

 It is possible that the name Estep was imported after 1066 A.D. when William the Conqueror invaded England, and William’s associates moved to Cornwall and eventually to Wales.[5]  It's also possible that the distinction between the Estep andEasthope surnames may be related to whether the surname originated from the location Easthope or the importation of the Spanish derivation. 

However, it seems unlikely that the name was imported from Spain, and more likely that it is derived from a place near the Welsh border.  None of these theories are proven.  Possibly all could be true, or none could be true, but they make good stories that prickle our imaginations.  


To the New World  

      The stories of the Esteps are much easier to document after the American Civil War.  Prior to that the stories are mostly educated opinion based on the few facts that are available.  

      In the book Thomas Estep, Sr., (c. 1709-c.1772) of Frederick County, Maryland and His Descendants, the writers listed many early references to the name Estep.  In Britain, inquisitions were conducted from 1235-1644 after a death to determine what property a man owned and to determine the man’s heir.  These inquisition reports were filed in the Chancery.  In these inquisitions is found John De Esthope in the County Salop (Shropshire County).  His inquisition was to be returned to the exchequer at York on St. Martin (Nov. 12).  This was witnessed on 20 October 1303.  In the same county on Ash Wednesday (between 4 February and 10 March) 1306 there is an inquisition of John De Esthope that states that John de Esthope had no heir, but “Thomas, son of Thomas de Esthope, aged 12 at the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist last (24 June), is brother and next heir of the said John son of Thomas de Esthope.”  It says that John, the son of Thomas, died before the said John de Esthope without heir. 

          According to the Thomas Estep book, many Esteps were found in the British Isles living along the Welsh border in the counties of Shropshire (Salop), Gloucester, and Hereford. 

          Two Esteps, one of whom is likely the ancestor of the American branch, are Richard Eaststopp and Joseph Eastop.  Thomas Estep states that it is commonly accepted that these two men were brothers, but no record has been found to prove this as a fact or to prove the facts of their births.  Our knowledge of them comes mainly from immigration records. 

      At age 16 Richard, of Petticoate Lane in Stepney Parish in County Middlesex, son of John Eastopp, deceased, was bound to Thomas Rogers, a merchant in London.  Richard sailed to Maryland on the ship Loyall Subject and was bound for 5 years to Thomas Rogers, who was also captain of the ship.  The indenture was signed on 6 August 1684 and was witnessed by Richard’s grandmother, Precilla Eaton, and his uncle, Richard Eaton. 

      Joseph Eastop, son of John Eastop, a deceased glover from London, was indentured to Mathew Daveson for five years in Maryland.  This document was dated 26 August 1685 and was also witnessed by Richard Eaton.  The fact that the witness for both documents was Richard Eaton, who was named as an uncle to Richard, indicates at the least that Richard Eastopp and Joseph Eastop were related.  It is probable that after John Eastopp died and left his sons without any means of support, each boy was bound out as soon as they reached the age of 16, one in 1684 and the other a year later. 

      Stepney Parish, near the main port of London and the location of St. Dunstan’s Church, was home to many of the people who worked on the ships and docks.  There was a tradition that any child baptized at sea in a British ship could claim to be a native of Stepney, and the children were often entered into the baptismal register of St Dunstan’s. The official guide to Stepney says, “He who sails on the wide sea is a parishioner of Stepney.”  It may be that Mr. Daveson, the merchant and sea captain to whom the boys were indentured, was a familiar face to them.  This is not documented, but only a conclusion from the information known about the area. 

A record in the marriage registers of St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, in the County ofMiddlesex, documents the marriage of John Eastop, of Pettycoat Lane, and Elizabeth Eaton on 2 October 1677.  Middlesex County no longer exists as an administrative unit, having been mostly incorporated into the city of London.  St. Dunstan’s dates from the 1400s, although the chancel is older, and was the medieval parish church of Stepney.  Initially it served the whole of Middlesex east of London, but from the 1300s the parishes were separated.

      If John is the father of Richard and Joseph, he probably died shortly before the two boys were bound out which would have been about 1683-84.  Some researchers list John Estep’s birth date as 1644-1648, probably based on the assumption that he would have been about 20 years old at the birth of Richard in 1668.  No documentation is given for the birth date of 1644. 

Because Richard (the 16-year old emigrant) and John (the deceased husband/father) have the same address and John's in-laws have the same surname (Eaton), the immigration records and the marriage record seem to be for the same family.  The marriage occurred AFTER the births of Richard and Joseph, which probably indicates that the marriage of John Eastop and Elizabeth Eaton was the second marriage for John, and that Richard Eaton, uncle; Precilla Eaton, grandmother, and Elizabeth Eaton Eastop, step-mother, were not biological relatives of Richard and Joseph Eastop, emigrants.  So perhaps this is a “Cinderella” story in which the step-family disposed of the biological sons of John Eastop by sending them to America to seek their fortunes and to relieve the Eatons from having to support them.   

      The researchers in Thomas Estep conclude that Joseph, the emigrant, is the probable father of Thomas Estep, Sr., but they also indicate that no proof of this has been found, nor is it likely to be found in the future.  Other researchers list Richard as the father of Thomas Estep.   

          According to the research of Veronica Estep, Richard Estep and his wife, Rebecca Ramsey married about 1689 in England and were the parents of Richard, born about 1694 in Stepney Parish, Middlesex County, England; Alexandria Estep, born about 1698, also in Stepney Parish: and Thomas Estep, born about 1709 in Charles County, Maryland.This Thomas Estep was the ancestor of the Virginia/West Virginia branch of Esteps. 

      No documentation is presented with this research, but if it is accurate, Richard was bound out in 1684 for five years, went to America, returned to England at least by 1689, and lived there at least until 1698 when his second child was born.  Then he and his wife returned to America where Thomas Estep, Sr., was born.  This is not impossible to have happened, but whether or not it actually happened is unproven.  No documentation is presented in Veronica Estep’s research as to the birth dates, etc.

      The Thomas Estep book states that no records have been found on Joseph Eastop in Maryland, so many assume that Richard Eastopp is the ancestor of all Esteps in and from Maryland.  Dr. Martin Hanson addresses this by writing of the differences in the two branches of the family.

      Members of families tended to follow each other from place to place, with names recurring 


Map of Maryland, 1680.

among family members, such as John, Shadrach, and Thomas.  Dr. Hanson contrasts the differences in the Richard-Thomas lines: 1) the families of Richard’s line seem to have one to four children, and this occurs in the Thomas line only if the wife dies; 2) the naming of the children follows different patterns; 3) men in the Richard line were wealthy land and slave owners by the mid-18th century, and Thomas and his sons are “dirt farmers”; 4) it is possible that Joseph died and therefore no other records occurred for him, but if he didn’t own land, neither would there have been records in that situation; 5) just because Richard and Joseph were related, doesn’t mean they got along with each other. 

      Because the Richard Estep families and the Virginia/West Virginia branches seem to be very different from each other, Thomas Estep lists Joseph as the father of Thomas Estep, Sr., rather than Richard Estep.  Since the book about Thomas Estep is so thoroughly researched and documented, Joseph will be listed as the father of Thomas Estep on charts included in this work with the understanding that this is not proven.

      Thomas Estep, Sr. left few written records before the birth of his son Thomas Estep, Jr. 3 November 1730 in St. Margaret’s Parish, Anne Arundel Co., Maryland.  With no oral tradition passed down, speculation is “based upon what we know blended with what seems probable.”  From birth records of his children and a court record in which he was called as a witness in a court case, the arbitrary date of Thomas, Sr.'s birth is set at around 1709.  The first land transaction for Thomas Estep, Sr. was the purchase of “Chinkapin Forrest” in Anne Arundel County for 3600 pounds of tobacco on 9 March 1746.  Other transactions track him through Frederick County and Baltimore County, but it appears he lived in Anne Arundel County for over 20 years.  

      After selling property in Frederick County, Thomas, Sr. and his wife, Mary, probably moved to Rowan County, North Carolina about 1772.  Thomas, Sr. may have died in Maryland shortly before Thomas, Jr. moved to North Carolina, or Thomas, Sr. may have lived for a short time in Rowan County.  Records from the Dutchman’s Creek Meeting House in North Carolina, 5 October 1772, list Thomas, Jr., his wife, Susanna, and Mary Estep (spelled Easteb) as original members of the church.  Thomas, Sr. is absent from the list, either having died in Maryland or shortly after the move to North Carolina.  
      The next set of stories begins as America becomes a nation, and the Esteps settle in North Carolina.  




[2] William I and the Norman Conquest, Frank Barlow, 1965, p. 180.

[3] William the Conqueror, the Norman Impact upon England, David Douglas, 1966, p. 393-394.


[5] The Estep Family Journal. “The Origin of Our Surname, Estep”, Vol. 1, pages 25-26.

Posted by Janet Ballengee Estep at 5:37 PM Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest


Labels: EasthopeEastopEstepShropshire CountyWales