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origins of the name

a mining area, Ustis and Ustick

a non-existent saint and Trefusis

spelling variants prove nothing

arms and the plebs

the first proven connection


Eustice, Eustis, Yesstis, Eustace, Ustick? Well, it all depends ....

It might have come from a saint who didn't exist, or a place on the south west coast of Cornwall, or both.

Let's start with St. Just, an early mining town near Penzance. The Cornish name was Lannyust:

named after Justus or St. Just, who was sent to England by Pope Gregory in A.D. 596, with St. Augustine and many other monks, to convert the Saxons. He was consecrated bishop by St Augustine in A.D. 604, and appointed to the See of Rochester by King Ethelbert. In A.D. 616 he was made Archbishop of Canterbury; and died in November 627- Genuki

To add confusion to the name Justus, it has connections in Finnish and German and several saints shared it (wiki).

In the Acts of the Apostles, Joseph Barsabbas (also known as Justus) is one of two candidates qualified to be chosen for the office of apostle after Judas Iscariot lost his apostleship when he betrayed Jesus and committed suicide. After the casting of lots, he was not chosen, the lot instead favoring Mathias tto be numbered with the remaining eleven apostles. (Wikipedia)

Pawley White (A Handbook of Cornish Surnames, 1972) certainly thinks Eustice comes from the town of St. Just. It just needs a change from soft to hard versions of a J to get from Justus, pronounced Yustus, to early spellngs of the name like Yetsess, Ustes or Ustes. Although the modern Cornish J is usually harder, neither Irish nor Scots Gaelic uses the letter J. For example, in Irish, John becomes Eoin. Nor does a J figure in the ancient Latin alphabet:

The letters J, U and W were added to the alphabet at a later stage to write languages other than Latin. J is a variant of I - omniglot

The Roman personification of justice was Iustitia - Justitia - Justice.

It is very easy to get from Justus, pronounced Yustus or Iustis, to early spellngs of the name like Yetsess, Ustes or Ustes. That seems very simple, but can be confused by several annoying facts:

One is that the name is very widespread. Count Eustace 11 of Bologne is depicted on the Bayeux tapestry and may be its patron. If Normans are using the name Eustace in 1066 they can't have got it from a Cornish mine, so Eustace derivations would be different from Ustis. The other is the existence of Usticks, with a hard ending, who are certainly identified with this area, and with Botallack, one of the oldest copper and tin mines in the area, since at least the 1500s. So far as I can tell, as a general rule, Usticks owned mines and had property, Ustices dug them. They are different families.

John Ustick of Botallack had descendants who married well, with connections including the M.P. for St. Ives 1724 and Sir Michael Nowell, Knt (sheriff of Falmouth 1786). A direct descendant was chaplain to George IV and Madron had one of its vicars from them. However, this group is usually far removed from any connection with landless labourers, although it is technically possible we might go back another few hundred years and connect them. There is one interesting lead still to be followed through a 17th century lease in Crowan and not all the Cornish Eustices are always poor - there are farmers with land, a few in trade and interesting wills and tenancies still to be explored.

We do know that clerks have obviously confused the names from time to time, so that certain records might belong in either camp, and the same individual might be called Ustis, Ustick, Justick or Justice due to clerical error. That is particularly vital in trying to sort out 17thC families around Crowan and Ludgvan. Details are catalogued under a separate Ustick file. My own name, clearly spelled Eustice, was recently pronounced as 'Justick' by a hesitant Northern Irish doctor, so imagine the confusion when few people could write, records were rare and accents were heavy. The Cornish C tends to be hard (K sound) but would be soft (s sound) "in loan words before e" (n7).

In passing, of course, it is worth noting that in any event a common surname is no guarantee of biological relationship, even within a small family group, although on the other hand a close physical resemblance has been noted between very distant members of the wider group. Also, there can be a legal change of name, such as F.J.W.E Malpas to Eustice (Times 22/8/1873) and Beauchant to Nowell-Ustick (Dublin gazette 28/2/1852).

A more common reference is to another saint, a creation of early Christian propaganda with a Greek name, St. Eustace.

There are two St. Eustaces in historic record. John, Anthony and Eustace were tortured and executed in Lithuania in 1342 and buried in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Vilnius. He was probably a real person but he is not the original source of the name.

The other is earlier but was invented by the early church. The tale is that a Roman general called Placidus was out hunting when a crucifix appeared between the antlers of a stag. This explains the symbol of the English Eustace Families Association (now defunct) and on a number of coats of arms, and why he was the patron saint of hunters. He converted, chose Eustachius as a baptismal name and was then disgraced and exiled, Christianity being still illegal at the time. Various tales attach to his name, some of which are also told about other saints. For example, he travelled to Egypt, where he could not afford a fare for his passage so his wife offered herself as a hostage; he was later mid-stream on a river crossing when one his sons was carried away by a wolf on one bank while another was taken by a lion on the other bank. Recalled during a national emergency, he was reunited with his wife and sons but refused to recant and was therefore martyred by being roasted alive in a bronze bull. Or so they used to say. He was removed from the approved list by Pope Paul VI in January 1970, so St Eustace's Day on 20th September is now unofficial. You will have to make do with St. Piran's Day on 5th March. Piran was (maybe) an Irish monk, fond of a tipple, who was flung from the cliffs by pagans, survived to float across tp Perranporth but later died when he fell down a well, drunk. He discovered tin and thus became the patron saint of tin miners - the white on back of the Corinish flag may be white tin against black stones from the smelting fire. Perrentide or Mazey Day used to be a drunken revel, although it has now been domesticated - see An-Daras.

Eustace was a popular saint and the name probably spread by being chosen a a forename, then later as a patronymic. Thus there will be many people and places named after him which have no real connection with each other. There is, for example, a church in Paris at the Impasse St. Eustache, which claims to have relics of this non-existent person.

The Vision of St. Eustace by Pisanello is in the National Gallery and Durer also produced a Vision of St. Eustachius. A monastery in Astros, Greece, contains a wall painting of St Eustace, Patriarch of Constantinople in the fourth century. He was the subject of a poem by Derek Mahon in the Observer in 1983, and is central to Russell Hoban's novel, Riddley Walker (1980).

The name chosen for the legend is obviously from the Greek. The Ambassador to the UK in 1982 was Eustace P. Lagacos, who claims his name comes from the Greek name Efstathios (stable) - letter D137. Many names come from this root, including Efstathiou, Papaefstathiou, Stathopoulos, Stathatkis. Eustathopoulos was spotted in Sussex in 1983. Perhaps the saint's name was chosen to mean stable = steadfast?

A well in Wye was once said to have been blessed by him and apparently a woman drank the water and then vomited up two black toads which changed into dogs then donkeys. Of course, among the missionaries coming to Canterbury under St. Augustine was Justus , so this may have led to some confused stories. Or maybe Justis was named after Eustace anyway? Certainly, the Latinised Greek name is very popular.

A Sophia Eustachio once passed through Moscow (PRO foreign marriages Vol 8 p7) which seems to hark back to examples like Bartolemeo Eustacio (Latin Eustachius), an Italian anatomist whose name was used for the Eustachean tube in the middle ear. One could speculate forever about the Argentian Astiz or the Swiss Justitz, not to mention the Croatian tribe of Ustachis who helped Hitler in the second world war.

Several people called Eustace came over with the Norman conquest, using it as a forename which became, as a patronymic, a surname in due course. There was a noble or two of that name, but that is like saying there was a noble called William. It proves nothing about Cornish families. The Irish famlies, now often spelled Eustice/Eustis, may well have a root here, as Eustace was an Hiberno-Norman family of considerable influence, spelled Iustas in Irish (n8).

First references to the name in Cornwall are scattered and inconclusive. There is a reference to a sheriff of Bocland in Cornwall in about 1200 called William fitzEustace (= illegitimate son of a Eustace) and Eustace son of Stephen was sheriff 1174 and 79. fitzStephen collected taxes in Helston in the 1180s, but not necessarily in person. One could own land and collect taxes without any need to go to the area. For example, the minister's accounts for the Earldom of Cornwall refer to a Margery Eustace 1296 who was fined for watering the beer, but she lived in Berkhamstead, where they have probably always done it.

Eustace the monk revolted against Nornam regulations and became a pirate, terrorising the channel until killed in the battle of Sandwich 1217 (n4). This has no connection with any Cornish family, although it is mildly interesting that Lundy Island in Devon was a pirate base at the time.

Augustine son of Eustace was involved in a property deal in Devon 1249 and a family of some property was centred on Nancealvan/Hedgecumbe/Morval about 1600. Eustace of Cotehele held lands at Mt Edgecumbe. There is a Eustace priest in Breage 1226-7, Adam Eustace as free tenant of the manor of Lyskirret (Liskeard?) 1338 (rent of 6d due at Michaelmas) and Jacob Eustas rising from the status of accoliti to Presbiteri 1443/44 in the Bodmin area. All that proves is that some people were named after the saint and some took the patronymic. None need be related to each other or to us. And all of it was much later than the travels of Justus.

To deal with one final confusion, name Trefusis is both a place near Falmouth and associated with the barons Clinton, but has no necessary connection. There are references to variants from an early stage (Willelmo de Treurfes witnesses a grant of alms 1209-14 (n1) and Domesday refers to Nicholas Trefusis(n2). The English Eustaces in the eighties were very interested in relations with Eustace of Cotehele and Edgecumbe manor, but there is no recorded connection to our group. A rent roll of 1664 and a list of tenants 1655 both mention John Trefusis (n3) and the Henderson papers record Nichloas Trefusys and one of our Richards in a convergence of land 1558(n5). There is much scope for confusion. There are no grounds for assuming aristocratic associations.

My conclusion so far is that Eustices were certainly a different group from Trefusis and were distinct from Usticks by 1600, possibly by long before. They may have obtained their name from a different source. Work remains to be done if we are ever to know for sure.

Spelling variants across the globe include Usstes, Eustis (still popular in USA families) and Eustice (still popular in Ireland), rather than the English/French/Greek Eustace. Others in the UK have included Yestis, Hewstice etc. These are recorded on individual charts. Accent is all, and spelling proves nothing on its own, although it can be an indication as to when a family moved out of the original area. The EFA has a page listing some of the variants they have found.

Spelling and clerical errors by lazy priests and clerks are not uncommon, leading to variations within a single lifetime, and there are examples of children's names being misentered, even changes of sex by a slip of the pen. There is at least one case of a Justick/Ustick confusion in the records and a possible Anstice confusion in Newlyn (q.v.). When looking for entries in original records or on-line search engines it is always worth trying Ustice as well as Eustice variants, especally early on. Known variants within one family have been catalogued D138 and include changes from U to E starts and hard to soft endings. There is a case of one spelling being used by the official entering the details and a participants signature using a different spellng below it.

So, bearing all that in mind, where can we start?


Arms and the plebs

Usticks of Botallack in St. Just in Penwarne in Mawnan have 3 diagonal green eagles. Three red eagles are also recorded by WH Pascoe in A Cornish Armoury. A Nowell-Ustick with a single eagle connects Tintagel and Stephen as a Christian name but not to our area of interest.

Pascoe also records a Cornish Eustace with six martlets (n6) and diagonal. Robson's British Herald and a mss collection of E.F. Briggs have respectively three and one records of Eustace/fitzEustace arms with no location, all gold and black, some with martlets.

No proven ancestor of any Cornish Eustice or Ustis with a soft ending has any arms, although the Methodist / Baptist / Salvation Army background of many early 20th century members means at least they were not likely to be legless as well.

There are lots of Irish arms with the stag of St. Eustace, and the stag was adopted by the English Eustace Families Association in the eighties. The arms of Irish famlies use the motto cur me persequeris (why are you persecuting me?) which hints ar an explanation for the presence of so many Irish Eustis familes outside of Ireland.


the first proven connection

What is very clear is that the population of Cornwall rose from about 80,000 at the start of the 17thC to about 105,000 in 1641. Tin output rose dramatically 1600-1800 and copper from 1700-1800. Eustices contributed freely to all three production rates, then spread about the world wherever tin or copper was being mined.

We know that two Eustices moved to Crowan, possibly from Ludgvan, in or before the late 1600s. Early records in both areas are damaged or missing, so we need more work and some lateral thinking to get beyond this point with any certainty. We do know that a very large group grew up around the mining area in in Crowan and a line can be traced from there through Coverack, St. Keverne and Falmouth to the present day, with some branches emigrating as the mining work dried up.

Most of that line were miners, labourers, fishermen etc., with a few farmers and shopkeepers as distant relatives, but there is one early mention of a will. Although the sum is small, it is unusual to need one if you are an illiterate labourer, so it is not impossible that some other records will eventually emerge. Indeed, at least some of the early ancestors could sign their name at an early stage, when it was far from common. Could they also read and write? Details are on the charts.


sourcesunless links are live or referenced elsewhere, copies held or originals seen by
1Devon and Cornwall Record Society published a version of the Catulary of St. Michael's Mount (Hatfield House mss 315 Ed P.L. Hull 1962). Index refers to a master Eustace of Breage on page 31 but relevant page in Latin only refers to Treurfes. Possible latinisation or confusion?


History of the County of Cornwall, William Page 1924, Lands of Count of Montain, all in the Kerrier district, see note on manor of Tregavethen in Kea (note 70 page 92) referring to a fine levied 5Chas1 between Ezekiel Grosse and NT.
3A Study of Bodrugan Group of the Edgcumbe Manor in Cornwall 1601-62 BA thesis by Hitchens November 1971
4The Normans, Jack Lindsey pp383, 431-2 and wikipedia
5Vol 4 - See letter EM 14

A mythical bird often used in heraldry. Looks similar to the swallow but with short tufts of feathers in the place of legs. The inability of the martlet to land can symbolize a constant quest for knowledge and learning.


Cornish Simplified, A.S.D. Smith (Caradar) ed E.G.R. Hooper (Talek) Dyllansow Truran, 1972 page 7.

8See the independent US site for Irish Eustices