An Ebbans By Any Other Name

The Ebbans surname is not a particularly common one. Spelling is a relatively recent convention so I’m used to seeing names spelled in a variety of ways in records – and that’s not including mistranscriptions! (See below for a list of Ebbans variations I’ve found so far – my favourite is ‘Ebbags’.) But something about the name ‘Ebbans’ intrigues me.

The family theory was that the name had mutated from Evans and that there were probably Welsh connections – a quite reasonable assumption considering the family’s proximity to Wales.  However, the further back I went, the further the family got from Wales. Also, the further back I went, the less likely I was to see the name spelt with a final ‘s’. I decided to track the name from the earliest Ebbans ancestor found so far.

In 1822, Mary Ebbon, an unwed woman, gave birth to Thomas Ebbon at Old Buckenham, Norfolk. Her surname was also recorded as Ebben, Ebbin and Ebborn in the Overseer’s Accounts for the parish.

parish register baptism entry
Baptism of Thomas Ebbon at Old Buckenham in 1822

From the 1841 census onwards, Thomas was recorded in official records as Thomas Ebben:

Thomas Ebben in 1841 census
Marriage of Thomas Ebben and Sarah Collins – 1855
Birth registration of William Ebben – 1856
Thomas, Sarah and William Ebben in 1861 census
Thomas Ebben on the Wolverhampton electoral register – 1877

The only noteable exception occurred when he was recorded as ‘Thos Evans’ in the 1871 census. Although it’s possible the surname was spoken as ‘Ebbens’, in this case the enumerator seems to have misheard, and/or recorded the more common surname (Evans), since Thomas and his children continued to be recorded as Ebben in subsequent records.

The family is recorded as Evans in the 1871 census
Thomas’ widow and daughter continue to use Ebben – 1881 census

Adding a final s

A deliberate shift to ‘Ebbens’ seems to have been initiated by Thomas’ son William (b1856) around 1880. William was still giving his surname without a final ‘s’ in 1875 (his marriage record), but in the 1881 census was recorded as Evans.

The family is recorded as Evans in the 1881 census

This may have been a simple error, such as in 1871, except that he actually signs his name as ””William Ebbens”” 3 years later, on his sister Mary Elizabeth Ebben’s marriage record. This is despite his sister (and father’s name) being recorded as Ebben on the same document. (Mary also continues to give her maiden name as ‘Ebben’ when later registering her children’s births.)

Marriage of Edward Morris and Mary Elizabeth Ebben – 1884

From 1881 onwards, William (and his children) consistently use a final ‘s’ (regardless of other spelling variants).

In 1895, William was first recorded on the electoral register as ‘Ebbans’ – a spelling which he used consistently until his death in 1926.

William Ebbans on the Walsall electoral register – 1895

The reasons for the shift to a final ‘s’ may never be known but it certainly seems intentional. The ‘Ebbans’ spelling in particular seems to be prevalent around the West Midlands area – elsewhere ‘Ebbens’ is more common. The research is still in progress but my hypothesis is: all those whose name is spelt ‘Ebbans’ are descended from this William Ebbans. We’ll see if that theory checks out.

Official Ebbans Firsts

  • The first official birth registration using the spelling ‘Ebbans’ was William’s son, John Ebbans, whose birth was registered in 1896.
  • The first official marriage registration was William’s son Thomas Ebbans in 1904.
  • The first official death registration was William’s granddaughter (daughter of the above Thomas), Elizabeth Ebbans in 1907.

Some Variations and Mistranscriptions of Ebbans 

Ebbens Ebbins Ebbing
Evans Ettans Ebbon
Ebben Ellen Ebbags
Hebbin Ebbaus Ebbam
Ebbin Hebben Hebbings
Ebbels Ebbers Abon

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