Brighton History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Brighton reached English shores for the first time with the ancestors of the Brighton family as they migrated following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Brighton family lived at Breighton in the East Riding of Yorkshire where they were established since the early Middle Ages. Some have mistakenly thought the name came from Brighton in Sussex, but until the late 1800s that place was called Brighthelmestone.

Early Origins of the Brighton family

The surname Brighton was first found in Yorkshire where they held a family seat as Lords of the Manor of Breighton in the East Riding. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, having prevailed over King Harold, granted most of Britain to his many victorious Barons. It was not uncommon to find a Baron, or a Bishop, with 60 or more Lordships scattered throughout the country. These he gave to his sons, nephews and other junior lines of his family and they became known as under-tenants. They adopted the Norman system of surnames which identified the under-tenant with his holdings so as to distinguish him from the senior stem of the family. After many rebellious wars between his Barons, Duke William, commissioned a census of all England to determine in 1086, settling once and for all, who held which land. He called the census the Domesday Book, [1] indicating that those holders registered would hold the land until the end of time. Hence, the sizeable village of Breighton was held Ralph de Mortimer, a battle of Hastings warrior, who was granted many 123 Lordships by Duke William of Normandy, his chief seat being that of Wigmore Castle in Herefordshire. Which of his under-tenants or relatives held Breighton is unknown, but we feel certain that this is the ancient ancestor of the Brightons. He was succeeded by Roger, Hugh, William and others.

Early History of the Brighton family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Brighton research. Another 123 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1328 and 1341 are included under the topic Early Brighton History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Brighton Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names tend to be marked by an enormous number of spelling variations. This is largely due to the fact that Old and Middle English lacked any spelling rules when Norman French was introduced in the 11th century. The languages of the English courts at that time were French and Latin. These various languages mixed quite freely in the evolving social milieu. The final element of this mix is that medieval scribes spelled words according to their sounds rather than any definite rules, so a name was often spelled in as many different ways as the number of documents it appeared in. The name was spelled Brighton, Bryton, Bryghton, Brighten, Bryten, Bryghten and many more.

Early Notables of the Brighton family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Brighton Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Brighton migration to the United States +

Because of the political and religious discontent in England, families began to migrate abroad in enormous numbers. Faced with persecution and starvation at home, the open frontiers and generally less oppressive social environment of the New World seemed tantalizing indeed to many English people. The trip was difficult, and not all made it unscathed, but many of those who did get to Canada and the United States made important contributions to the young nations in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers with Brighton name or one of its variants:

Brighton Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Henry Brighton, a child immigrant to Virginia in 1626
  • Thomas Brighton, who arrived in New England in 1635
  • Tho Brighton, aged 31, who landed in America in 1635 [2]
Brighton Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Daniel Brighton, who settled in Virginia in 1743
Brighton Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • William H Brighton, aged 19, who arrived in New York in 1854 [2]
  • W H Brighton, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1855 [2]

Canada Brighton migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Brighton Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Robert Brighton, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1749
  • Robert Brighton, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Sarah Brighton, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Robert Brighton, who arrived in Nova Scotia with his wife Sarah in 1750

Australia Brighton migration to Australia +

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

Brighton Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Charlotte Brighton, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Bolton" in 1848 [3]
  • John Brighton, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Bolton" in 1848 [3]

New Zealand Brighton 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:

Brighton Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Gavin Brighton, (b. 1855), aged 22, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Marlborough" arriving in Bluff, South Island, New Zealand on 4th November 1877 [4]
  • Mr. Forrest Brighton, (b. 1859), aged 21, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Oamaru" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 29th March 1880, for Invercargill [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Brighton (post 1700) +

  • Leland Brighton, American Democrat politician, Candidate for Delegate to Michigan State Constitutional Convention from Lenawee County, 1961 [6]
  • Howard Brighton, American Democrat politician, Candidate for Michigan State House of Representatives 45th District, 1966 [6]
  • Arthur Brighton, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Illinois, 1948 [6]
  • Brighton Diggins (1906-1971), Australian rules footballer
  • Brighton C. Diefenderfer, American politician, Mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1944-48, 1952-56 [7]

HMS Repulse
  • Mr.  Leonard Edgar Brighton, British Marine, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and survived the sinking [8]


  1. ^ Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  2. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  3. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) BOLTON 1848. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1848Bolton.htm
  4. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  5. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  6. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, December 11) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  7. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, January 15) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  8. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html


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