Recorded as Shearston, Shearstone, and Sherston, this is an English surname. It is locational from a hamlet called Shearston, two miles from the town of Bridgewater, in the county of Somerset, and on the Bristol Channel. The place name and hence the surname, would seem to derive either from the pre 7th century Olde English personal name "Scarius" meaning "army", or possibly from "scaere", an early form of "shire". This word formerly described an undefined populated area, and probably one cleared for agriculture, but from about the 9th century had the more precise meaning of a county region. The suffix is probably from "tun" meaning a settlement, although "stana" meaning stone, and hence a marker stone for a boundary or a meeting place, is also possible. Locational surnames are usually "from" names. That is to say that they were names given either to the local lord of the manor and his descendants, or to people after they left their original homestead, to move somewhere else. The easiest way to identify such strangers was to call him, or sometimes her, by the name of the place from whence they came. Spelling being at best erratic as shown below and dialects very thick, often lead to the development of "sounds like" spellings. In this case the name is well recorded in Somerset and early examples include: Mary Shearston at the village of Somerton, on July 11th 1613, Arthur Sherston at Bath Abbey, Bath, on October 29th 1676, and Jane Shearstone, given as being the daughter of Thomas Sherstone, so much for spelling, at St Margarets church, Tintinhull, on September 18th 1727.
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