Surname Saturday – Mason

I have four people with the surname Mason in my family tree at the moment.  None of them appear to be related to each other.

Esther Mason is my 3x great grandmother and she Married John Dinsdale at Kirkby Malham, Yorkshire in 1806.  Henrietta Mason is another 3x great grandmother and she married Thomas Buckley at Keighley, West Yorkshire in 1820.

The surname is the 96th most common in Great Britain.  According to surnamedb Mason is a status and occupational surname which originally described a skilled stone mason.  The derivation is from the pre 8th century Old French word “masson”, probably introduced into England by the Norman-French after the conquest of 1066.  Indeed before that time few places in Britain were built in stone, so the French largely introduced both the word and the skill.

The surname is said to be one of the earliest recorded and in a surprising number of different spellings.

Early examples of the name include – John Macun in the building accounts of King Henry 1st of England in the year 1130, and Ace le Mazun, in the Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire in 1193.

Some other interesting Masons include James Mason (1779–1827) who was a supporter of Charles James Fox in the campaign to abolish slavery and liberate Catholics from the penal laws, and Sir John Mason (1503–1566), who attended Oxford university and worked his way up to become a royal ambassador and Chancellor of Oxford University – which was not bad considering his father was a cowherd from Abingdon!

Spellings of the surname both in Britain and France include Macon, Mason, Massen, Masson, Machen, Machent, Machin, and Machon.

Some examples from surviving church registers are those of Elizabeth Masson christened at St. Margaret’s Westminster, on July 21st 1540, and Awdry Mason who married William Elyat at that same church on June 10th 1548.

Among the many prominent figures with this surname was George Mason (1725 – 1792), the American statesman who framed the Virginia Bill of Rights.  This was later was used as a model by Thomas Jefferson when he drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  The first recorded spelling of the family name is possibly that of Richard Machun,  dated about the year 1120, in charters of the Danelaw, for the county of Lincolnshire.

More recently other noteworthy Mason’s include:-

Roy Mason (b. 1924) – British Labour politician and former Cabinet minister

Benedict Mason (b. 1954) – British composer

Nicholas Berkeley “Nick” Mason (b. 1944) – English drummer for Pink Floyd

The name has also been used in my family as a first name.  Two descendants of Thomas Buckley and Henrietta Mason bear the name Mason Buckley.


What’s in a name?

I was recently browsing through the list of names in my family tree and noticed quite a few occurrences of surnames becoming first names. It got me wondering how common this was and I suspect that certainly in the 18th and 19th centuries it was seen more often – but that is just a guess. The tradition in my family seems to have stopped for the most part, although I haven’t explored many lines into the last century.

So I though it would be interesting to post some examples from my tree.

Mason Buckley is my 2 x great grand uncle. His parents are Thomas Buckley and Henrietta Mason – my 3 x great grandparents.

Watson Dawson is my 3 x great grand uncle. His parents are John Dawson and Ann Watson – my 4 x great grandparents. The name Watson was also carried on in to subsequent generations.

Daniel Owen Espley is my wife’s grandfather. His father Frederick married Frances Owen.

John Bentley Hurtley is my first cousin 3 x removed. His parents are Thomas Hurtley and Maria Bentley.

Bracewell Kighley is my second cousin 3 x removed. His father is Isaac Kighley who married Sarah Bracewell.

Greenwood Lonsdale – is the son of Thomas Lonsdale and Sarah Greenwood.

Thomas Ainsworth Musgrove is my great grandfather and his parents are John Musgrove and Catherine Ainsworth.

My grandfather Fred Ainsworth Stowell Musgrove got his name from his parents Thomas Ainsworth Musgrove and Ellen Stowell.

My uncle Stowell is the last in that particular Musgrove line to carry on the tradition.

John Robert Turner Musgrove is my grand uncle. His parents are Joseph Musgrove and Elizabeth Ann Turner.

George Wigglesworth Nightingale – his parents are Thomas Nightingale and Ann Wigglesworth.

I really like the tradition and it’s quite sad that it has stopped.

How common is this tradition in your family?