This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from one of the many places thus called for example in Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Middlesex, Shropshire and Suffolk. The placenames are recorded variously in the Domesday book of 1086 as "Actune, Aectune, Achetone, Achetune, Acton" and "Achetuna". Most of the places get their name from the Olde English pre 7th Century "ac", oak, and "tun", enclosure, settlement; hence, "settlement by the oak tree(s)". A few have the Olde English personal name "Acca" (a derivative of "ac", oak, and given with connotations of strength and reliability) as their first element, and would therefore mean "Acca's settlement". During the Middle Ages, when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. Two of the families bearing this name are of considerable historical importance. The Worcestershire Actons, who held lands at Wolverton Hall near Pershore from the 16th Century onwards are descended from Sir Roger Acton, captain of Ludlow Castle, who was executed for treason in 1414. The historian, Lord Acton (1834 - 1902), came of a Shropshire family, first recorded in the county with William de Acton in the reign of Edward 111 (1327 - 1377). A Coat of Arms granted to the family is a red shield with an ermine fess within an ermine border. In Heraldry, red denotes Military Fortitude and Magnanimity, and ermine was an emblem of dignity. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hugh de Acton, which was dated 1194, in the "Pipe Rolls of Shropshire", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "Richard the Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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