Gainsborough History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Early Origins of the Gainsborough family

The surname Gainsborough was first found in Lincolnshire at Gainsborough, town in the West Lindsey district that dates back to the Domesday Book of 1086 where it was listed as Gainesburg and literally meant "stronghold of a man called Gegn" having derived from the Old English personal name + "burh." [1] Conjecturally, the family is descended from Rainald, tenant of the lordship of Gainsborough listed in the Domesday Book. [2] Gainsborough was one of the capital cities of Mercia during the Anglo-Saxon period, and another reference claims the town's origin is from Gaini (Ganni) an ancient Anglo-Saxon tribe.

The famed English portrait and landscape artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) born in Sudbury, Suffolk, the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a weaver and maker of woolen goods. His birthplace, Gainsborough's House is now a museum and gallery.

Early History of the Gainsborough family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Gainsborough research. Another 81 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1166, 1177, 1714, 1307, 1302 and 1307 are included under the topic Early Gainsborough History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Gainsborough Spelling Variations

Endless spelling variations are a prevailing characteristic of Norman surnames. Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules, and the introduction of Norman French added an unfamiliar ingredient to the English linguistic stew. French and Latin, the languages of the court, also influenced spellings. Finally, Medieval scribes generally spelled words according to how they sounded, so one person was often referred to by different spellings in different documents. The name has been spelled Gainsborough, Gainsborrow, Gainsbrow, Gainsbro, Gainsbrough, Gaynsborough, Gaynsbro, Gainsbrow, Gainsboro, Gaynsborrow, Gainsbury, Gainsbry, Gainsberry, Gainsbrook and many more.

Early Notables of the Gainsborough family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was William Gainsborough (died 1307), English prelate, Bishop of Worcester (1302-1307.) "He was a Franciscan, who is first known as the divinity lecturer of the Franciscans at Oxford. His position seems to have suggested to Edward I that he should be employed as an ambassador to Philip IV of France, with whom the English king wished to be at peace...
Another 67 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Gainsborough Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Gainsborough family

To escape the political and religious persecution within England at the time, many English families left for the various British colonies abroad. The voyage was extremely difficult, though, and the cramped, dank ships caused many to arrive in the New World diseased and starving. But for those who made it, the trip was most often worth it. Many of the families who arrived went on to make valuable contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. An inquiry into the early roots of North American families reveals a number of immigrants bearing the name Gainsborough or a variant listed above: James Gainsbrooke settled in Virginia in 1658.


Contemporary Notables of the name Gainsborough (post 1700) +

  • Thomas Gainsborough FRSA (1727-1788), English portrait and landscape painter, draughtsman, and printmaker; one of the most famous portrait and landscape painters of 18th century Britain, founding member of the Royal Academy
  • Humphrey Gainsborough (1718-1776), English non-conformist minister, engineer and inventor, brother of Thomas Gainsborough; he invented the drill plough in 1766, winning a prize of £60 from the Royal Society and later the tide mill in 1761
  • George Fotheringham Gainsborough, English barrister


  1. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  2. ^ Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)


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