Show ContentsAttenborough History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Early Origins of the Attenborough family

The surname Attenborough was first found in Nottinghamshire at Attenborough, a village and a suburb in the Broxtowe borough which dates back to the 12th century when it was listed as Adinburcha. [1] The place name literally means "stronghold associated with a man called Adda or Aeddi," having derived from the Old English personal name + "ing" + "burh." [2]

Bardsley also presumes the name could have been from "Attleburgh, a town in Norfolk I have placed Attenborough and Atterbury together, as they have probably become confused in the course of centuries. In any case Atterbury represents the older Attleburgh." [1]

To confuse matters more, another learned author notes "these surnames can hardly derive from Attenborough (Notts), earlier Adinburcha, which was not a village in the Middle Ages, the name being that of a church only. They are probably all from ME 'atten' plus the dative of OE bearu 'a grove' or beorg 'hill, mound'. The second element was, as often, changed to borough through association with burh. Hence 'dweller by the grove, hill or mound'." [3]

In an attempt to clear this confusion and explore other sources in this matter, the lion's share seem to agree with the former's origin of the name. They include: Lower [4], Barber [5] and Guppy [6].

We must look to Cambridgeshire to find the first record of the family in the year 1273, Alicia, Margeret and Richard Atteburwe who both appeared in the Hundredorum Rolls at that time. [1]

Early History of the Attenborough family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Attenborough research. Another 77 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1455, 1487, 1680, 1719, 1680 and 1701 are included under the topic Early Attenborough History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Attenborough Spelling Variations

The first dictionaries that appeared in the last few hundred years did much to standardize the English language. Before that time, spelling variations in names were a common occurrence. The language was changing, incorporating pieces of other languages, and the spelling of names changed with it. Attenborough has been spelled many different ways, including Ateenborough, Atterbury, Attenbarrow, Attenborrow, Attenbrough, Attenbrow, Attenburrow, Addenbury, Addenborough, Addenbrow, Addenborrow, Atborough, Attborough, Atborow, Atbarow and many more.

Early Notables of the Attenborough family (pre 1700)

Another 38 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Attenborough Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Attenborough migration to the United States +

Thousands of English families in this era began to emigrate the New World in search of land and freedom from religious and political persecution. Although the passage was expensive and the ships were dark, crowded, and unsafe, those who made the voyage safely were rewarded with opportunities unavailable to them in their homeland. Research into passenger and immigration lists has revealed some of the very first Attenboroughs to arrive in North America:

Attenborough Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Francis Attenborough, who arrived in America as an emigrant in bondage in 1738
Attenborough Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Attenborough, who was naturalized in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in 1882

Australia Attenborough migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Attenborough Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

New Zealand Attenborough migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Attenborough Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • John Attenborough, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Gertrude" in 1863 [10]
  • Mr. John Attenborough, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Gertrude" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 9th February 1863 [11]

Contemporary Notables of the name Attenborough (post 1700) +

  • Sheila Beryl Grant Attenborough (b. 1922), The Lady Attenborough, known by her maiden name Sheila Sim, an English film and theatre actress and wife of the actor and director Richard Attenborough
  • Michael Attenborough (b. 1950), English theatre director, son of Richard Attenborough
  • Frederick Attenborough (1887-1973), English academic, father of Richard and David Attenborough
  • Sir David Frederick Attenborough OM, CH, CVO, CBE, FRS, FZS, FSA (b. 1926), British author, conservationist, and television producer, Controller for BBC Two, best known for his work on the Life Series with the BBC Natural History Unit, younger brother of Richard Attenborough
  • Sir Richard Samuel Attenborough CBE (1923-2014), Baron Attenborough, English movie actor, director, and producer who won two Academy Awards, four BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globes

  1. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  2. Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  3. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  4. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  5. Barber, Henry, British Family Names London: Elliot Stock, 62 Paternoster Row, 1894. Print.
  6. Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  7. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 22nd March 2021). Retrieved from
  8. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) SYMMETRY 1848. Retrieved from
  9. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) NAVARINO 1851. Retrieved
  10. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 12th December 2018). Retrieved from
  11. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from on Facebook