A family name webpage to help amateur or professional genealogists. We aim to find all the Prestons who have settled in Ulster from 1600 and trace their descendants worldwide. Click here to get in touch.
Where does the name Preston come from?
This is a difficult question to answer. We think the name may have come from the Old English "Priests' Tun" which means "Priests' land or farm". Early genealogy in Britain is confusing because many people had no surname. If your name was Tom and you lived in a village called Preston you might have become known as "Tom of Preston" If you played the violin well you might have become "Tom Fiddler". There is a large town in Lancashire called Preston - but also numerous small villages in Scotland (2), Devon (2), Kent (2), Dorset, Yorkshire, Sussex, Gloucestershire, Northumberland, Rutland, Somerset, Suffolk and Wiltshire. Possibly there are several different families who have descended from these rural roots.
After the Norman conquest French families flooded into the country and became the Feudal lords appropriating much of the land. We know of 2 important families who were given lands near the town of Preston in Lancashire. They changed their names and became the "de Prestons" One of these families (from Anjou) stayed in Lancashire and the other (from Burgundy) moved to County Meath in Ireland in about 1250. The Irish de Preston line is obviously of interest to any one called Preston whose family comes from Ireland. The early genealogy of this family is well known and listed in Burke's Peerage. However, families like this were only interested in proving their title and descendants of 3rd or 4th sons were quickly forgotten. It may be next to impossible to prove whether you have descended from an early branch of this family. The current head of the Preston family in the Republic of Ireland is Lord Gormanston.
Where do the Ulster Prestons come from?
If your family is from Ulster you can be certain that you have not descended from an indiginous Irish clan but from an immigrant family who moved from England or Scotland. There are a number of possibilities to consider:
1) You are descended from The County Meath Prestons and your ancestor migrated to the North.
2) You are related to the Prestons of Lancashire and Cumbria (Anjou line).
3) You are a descendant of Thomas Preston (Suffolk family) who was appointed King of Arms in Ulster by Charles I in 1633.
4) If from County Armagh you may be descended from one of the families who came to set up the orchards in North Armagh in the 18th century. They were recruited from the Worcestershire/Warwickshire area.
5) Finally, your family could have been lowland Scots who were recruited during the main plantation of Ulster in the 1600's. Many Scottish families settled in Ulster and some moved on to Canada. There are particularly strong connections with Ontario.
The bad news is that the Public Record Office in Dublin was burnt down during the civil war. All the records dating back to 1550 that would have helped you find your family roots have been lost. This includes most of the Church records and all the census returns from the 1800's. If this had not happened there would be no need for this web page. We plan to collect all the information from other sources that might help you and to put them in one place.
When piecing together my own family tree I felt it was like trying to do a jigsaw when one of my children had hidden half the pieces! It is difficult- but not impossible. Please contribute any information you have, however trivial, as it may help somebody else. You will also find information about a genetic study organised by Professor Thomas Preston who is trying to trace our origins using the latest techniques of modern science.