The little village of Elstow, in the English county of Bedfordshire, is almost certainly the 'home' of this locational surname. Elstow itself is first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Elnestou' and later in 1168 as 'Alnestoua'. In his famous book of English Place Names, Ekwall gives the meaning as 'Aellin's stow', with Aellin being an early personal name, and 'stow', a place. Like many locational surnames it is apparently a 'from' surname. That is to say that it was almost certainly given to the first nameholders after they left 'Elstow' and moved elsewhere. This may well have been London as the first recording that we have from the church registers is that of Francis Elstowe, a witness at the church of All Hallows, Bread Street, in the city of London, on September 25th 1575, whilst almost a century later on May 25th 1669, Nicholas Elstowe, the son of Garet Elstowe, was christened at St Albans Abbey. Another recording this time from the 18th century, is that of Mary Elstow who married Thomas Foster at All Saints church, Hertford, on June 30th 1733. Recorded in the spellings of Elstow, Elstowe, and Elstows, the surname is regarded as rare, and church recordings before the 19th century, even in London, are few and erratic.
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