An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2016
Origins Available: English, Irish, Scottish
The lineage of the name Thornton begins with the Anglo-Saxon tribes in Britain. It is a result of when they lived in the parish of Thornton in the county of Yorkshire. Thornton 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. During the Middle Ages, as society became more complex, individuals needed a way to be distinguishable from others. Toponymic surnames were developed as a result of this need. Various features in the landscape or area were used to distinguish people from one another. In this case the surname Thornton was originally derived from the Old English terms thorn meaning thorn bushes and tun meaning enclosure or town. Therefore the original bearers of the surname Thornton were named due to their close proximity to the village where the thorn bushes were plentiful.
The surname Thornton was first found in Cheshire where the founder of the family was Peter Thornton, Secretary to the Blundells. Thornton in Lancashire is home to another branch of the family. "In the Testa de Nevill is mentioned Matilda de Thorenton, who was at the king's donation, but unmarried. In the 17th of Edward II., half the town of Thornton was held by William Banastre, and the other moiety by Laurence de Thorneton, a descendant probably of the above-named Matilda."  Another branch of the family was found in Arrow(e) in Cheshire from ancient times. "A moiety of the manor was in the Thornton family in the reign of Edward II., and passed by successive female heirs to the Duttons and Gerards."  Nether Witton in Northumberland was also an ancient family seat. "In the 14th century, [the manor of Nether Witton] became the property of Roger de Thornton, who built the ancient baronial tower, and, dying in 1429, was succeeded by his son, whose daughter and heiress conveyed it by marriage to George, Lord Lumley, of Lumley Castle. The estate subsequently became again the property of the Thornton family, of whom James left two daughters, who, as co-heiresses, conveyed it by marriage to the Trevelyans and the Withams, whose descendants are at present its proprietors. The manorhouse, a handsome mansion of white freestone, erected in the 17th century, is beautifully situated in tastefully embellished grounds; it is said to have been visited by Cromwell in the summer of 1651, and to have been the hiding-place of Lord Lovat, after his flight from the field of Culloden." 
Only recently has spelling become standardized in the English language. As the English language evolved in the Middle Ages, the spelling of names changed also. The name Thornton has undergone many spelling variations, including Thornton, Thornten and others.
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Thornton research. Another 233 words (17 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1204, 1425, 1469, 1615, 1669, 1660 and are included under the topic Early Thornton History in all our PDF Extended History products.
Another 49 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Thornton Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.
Some of the Thornton family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 129 words (9 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.
To escape the unstable social climate in England of this time, many families boarded ships for the New World with the hope of finding land, opportunity, and greater religious and political freedom. Although the voyages were expensive, crowded, and difficult, those families that arrived often found greater opportunities and freedoms than they could have experienced at home. Many of those families went on to make significant contributions to the rapidly developing colonies in which they settled. Early North American records indicate many people bearing the name Thornton were among those contributors:
Thornton Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
Thornton Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
Thornton Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
Thornton Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
Thornton Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
Thornton Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
Thornton Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.
Motto: Fideli tuta merces
Motto Translation: To the faithful go rewards
The Thornton Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Thornton Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.
This page was last modified on 29 April 2016 at 19:57.