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Family spelling variants includes Vest

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WEST Family History


This long-established surname is of early medieval English origins. It is topographical deriving from the Olde English pre 7th century word "west", and as such it described a person or persons who lived to the west of a main settlement. Alternatively it may have been a regional descriptive nickname for someone who had migrated from "The west" to another part of the country. Perhaps not entirely surprisingly it is first recorded in the county of Essex, which is as far to the east as it is possible to go. The surname is first recorded in the 12th century (see below), and other early recordings include: Goche West, who appears in the Pipe Rolls of Norfolk in 1197, and William del West, who is recorded in the Select Pleas of Essex in 1292...


West (Variants: Vest) English and German from Middle English and Middle High German west ‘west’, hence a regional name for someone who migrated further west or a topographic name for someone who lived to the west of a settlement.

Although this rather general nickname is derived from a person that moved from the west to a geographic locality, it could also mean they lived in the western portion of an unspecified area such as a county or parish.

Early bearers of the surname with various spellings: Maurice de West, 1152–70 in Colchester Cartulary (Essex); Goche West, 1197 in Pipe Rolls (Norfolk); William del West, 1262 in Forest Pleas (Essex); Robert bi Westen de Copford, 13th cent. in Colchester Cartulary (Essex); John in le West, 1379 in Yorks Poll Tax; Johannes del West’, 1379 in Poll Tax (Greasbrough, WR Yorks); John West, 1536 in IGI (Merrow, Surrey); George West, 1539 in IGI (Grimsby, Lincs); Robert Weste, 1539 in IGI (Easebourne, Sussex).

In 1891, the surname location was widespread across England with 29,574 occurrences recorded in England and Wales and 1,033 in Scotland. In 1881, the county of Kent was a top county of the surname with 2,086 occurrences.

Also reported in 1881, Agricultural Labourer, Labourer and Farmer were the top 3 reported jobs worked by West with a less common occupation being Coal Miner. The most common West occupation in the UK was Agricultural Labourer.

A notable person, Paul West (1930-2015), an English novelist, poet and author to over 50 books during his lifetime. 

Another, author and British journalist, Richard West (1930-2015), best known for his reporting of the Vietnam War and Yugoslavia.

John West, an English convict, was transported aboard the "Argyle" on 5 March 1831, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia.


1881, 1891 Census

1881 Census in Kent

Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003

Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London

1890 The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016

1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain

1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain


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