Research shows that the family name Eaton has been around since the eleventh century. Eaton is an Anglo-Saxon place-name. First documented evidence of the surname dates to Peter de Eton, dated 1273 in the "Hundred Rolls of Huntingdonshire," during the reign of King Edward I. http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/EATON
Eaton is currently at number 1899 of the UK's most common surnames. Throughout the world there are around 57159 people with this last name. The nineteen eleven census carried out by H.M. Treasury for the United Kingdom shows the largest number of Eaton's in the county of Hampshire." (Source: [http://www.researchmyname.com/Eaton/index.htm] )
In the USA, the name is currently most commonly found in Maine, followed by New Hampshire. http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Map/Eaton
"During the 17th century, the great migrations from Europe were primarily focused on the New World. These unsettling times were disturbing, but the New World beckoned the adventurous. Many descendants of the early de Eytons and/or Eatons sailed aboard the armada of small sailing ships known as the White Sails which plied the stormy Atlantic. These overcrowded ships lost many of the newcomers to disease and the elements, and many never made it to shore. But those hardy few who survived soon settled in the eastern seaboards of Newfoundland, Massachusetts, Maine, Virginia, and the Carolinas. According to research conducted by the Hall of Names in Ontario, as well as historical records of our many ancestors, among the first families to the Colonies were Francis Eaton, his wife Sarah and son Samuel who arrived on the Mayflower and settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620; John Eaton of Dedham, John Eaton of Haverhill, Jonas Eaton of Reading, Nathaniel Eaton of Cambridge and William Eaton of Reading who settled in New England from 1630 to 1640; Theophilus Eaton with wife Anne and children Mary, Samuel, and Theophilus who arrived on the Hector and settled first in Boston in 1638 and finally New Haven, Connecticut; Alexander Eaton who settled in Boston, Massachusetts in 1651; William Eaton who settled in North Carolina about 1670; Thomas Eaton who settled in Shrewsbury, New Jersey in 1670; Eliza Eaton who settled in Pennsylvania in 1682; and John, George and Edward Eaton who settled in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania from 1683 to 1686. In a study conducted by Miss Flossie Martin in response to a request by former Association members and reported in the March 1935 issue of the Etonian, early Virginia settlers came at or near the mouth of the James River and include Nathanial Eaton circa 1635; Samuel Eaton to James City Co. circa 1635; Peter Eaton to New Norfolk Co. in 1637; Henry Eaton to the Isle of Wight Co. in 1638; Peter Eaton to the Isle of Wight Co. in 1652 and George Eaton to Lancaster Co. in 1654. Their descendants scattered far and wide throughout the South and Middle West. - See more at:" http://www.eatongenealogy.com/guest_features/eaton_history.php#sthash.K8KLSHPB.dpuf
In ancient Anglo-Saxon England, the ancestors of the Eaton surname lived on a farm by a river or a farm on an island. The surname Eaton originally derived from the Old English word Eatun which referred to farm on a river or island. The surname Eaton is a topographic surname, which was given to a person who resided near a physical feature such as a hill, stream, church or type of tree. Habitation names form the other broad category of surnames that were derived from place-names. They were derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads. Other local names are derived from the names of houses, manors, estates, regions, and entire counties. As a general rule, the greater the distance between an individual and their homeland, the larger the territory they were named after. For example, a person who only moved to another parish would be known by the name of their original village, while people who migrated to a different country were often known by the name of a region or country from which they came.
It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, early Anglo-Saxon surnames like Eaton are characterized by many spelling variations. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages, even literate people changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Eaton include: Ayton, Eton, Eyton and others.
"First found in Cheshire where they held a family seat from very ancient times, some say the name originated well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 AD." (Source: [http://www.houseofnames.com/eaton-family-crest] )
See also: Hytthon, Hittou
The Eaton Families Association [http://www.eatongenealogy.com/]