The surname of ASBY was a locational name, the dweller by the ash-trees, from residence nearby. Almost every city, town or village extant in the Middle Ages has served to name one or more families. While a man lived in a town or village he would not be known by its name, as that would be no means of identification - all in the village would be so named. But when a man left his birthplace or village where he had been known and went elsewhere, people would likely refer to him by the name of his former residence or by the name of the land which he owned. Some had the name of a manor or village because they were lords of that place and owned it, but the majority descend from vassals of freeman who once had lived there. Early records of the name mention Robert Assebury, 1273, County Lancashire. Rogerus de Assebury of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379.
A notable member of the name was Francis Asbury (1745-1816). He was the English born American churchman, the first Methodist bishop in America. He was born in Handsworth, Staffordshire. In 1771 he was sent as a Methodist missionary to America and founded the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1770, and in 1784 he was consecrated as superintendent. In 1785 he assumed the title of bishop. He died in Richmond, Virginia. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God, however much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.
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