Rathbone History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancient Anglo-Saxon surname Rathbone came from the baptismal name Rawbone. Patronymic surnames arose out of the vernacular and religious given name traditions. The vernacular or regional naming tradition is the oldest and most pervasive type of patronymic surname. According to this custom, names were originally composed of vocabulary elements from the local language. Vernacular names that were derived from ancient Germanic personal names have cognates in most European languages.

Early Origins of the Rathbone family

The surname Rathbone was first found in Worcestershire where Richard Rathebon was listed in the Subsidy Rolls of 1275. However, Cheshire was a focal point for the family as numerous entries were found there from the 14th century on. John Rathebon was listed there in 1347 [1] and one source notes the name was in: " Cheshire records as Rathebon, does not seem to be English. If the original bearers of the name came from Ireland it answers to the Irish Rathbane, Rathbaun = 'White Fort' [Irish rath, a fort; also palace + bán, white]. If from Wales (as seems more likely), the name prob. means the 'Stumpy Clearing or Plain' [ Welsh rhath, a cleared spot, plain (conn. with Irish rath) + Welsh bon, a stock, stump, stem (conn. with Irish and Gaelic bonn, a foundation, base] and is apparently allied to 'Ratisbon.' " [2]

Another source has a slightly different understanding: "this surname is derived from a geographical locality. 'of Ruabon'. There seems little doubt that these surnames hail from Cheshire, also that Ruabon is the parent. The change to Rathbone is peculiar, but perhaps the place-name Ruabon has undergone a change. I furnish an instance of Rawbone from the Prestbury registers (Cheshire) dated 1603. A Thomas Rathbone was living there in 1695." [3]

"There were Rathbones in Prestbury, [Cheshire] 200 years ago. Richard Rathbone was mayor of Chester in 1598, and Thomas Rathbone was sheriff of that city in 1790." [4]

Early History of the Rathbone family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Rathbone research. Another 98 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1750, 1696, 1746, 1748, 1831, 1748, 1763, 1770, 1773, 1780, 1750, 1807, 1750, 1757, 1809, 1726, 1789, 1757, 1746, 1792 and 1809 are included under the topic Early Rathbone History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rathbone Spelling Variations

The English language only became standardized in the last few centuries; therefore, spelling variations are common among early Anglo-Saxon names. As the form of the English language changed, even the spelling of literate people's names evolved. Rathbone has been recorded under many different variations, including Rathbone, Rawbone, Rathburn and others.

Early Notables of the Rathbone family (pre 1700)

Distinguished members of the family include William Rathbone II (1696-1746), founder of Rathbone Brothers, in Liverpool a timber business that grew to be one of the United Kingdom's largest firms of wealth managers, thus beginning a long running family of Liverpool merchants and shipowners with a long history of philanthropy and public service. Wilson Rathborne (1748-1831), captain in the navy, son of Richard Rathborne, a clergyman, was born near Loughrea, co. Galway, on 16 July 1748. In September 1763 he was entered as an ‘able seaman’ on board the Niger, with Sir Thomas Adams, on the Newfoundland station. As able seaman and...
Another 268 words (19 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Rathbone Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rathbone Ranking

In the United States, the name Rathbone is the 6,343rd most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [5]


United States Rathbone migration to the United States +

For many English families, the political and religious disarray that shrouded England made the far away New World an attractive prospect. On cramped disease-ridden ships, thousands migrated to those British colonies that would eventually become Canada and the United States. Those hardy settlers that survived the journey often went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations in which they landed. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name Rathbone or a variant listed above:

Rathbone Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Richard Rathbone, who landed in Massachusetts in 1628 [6]
Rathbone Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Jonathon Rathbone, who settled in Charleston in 1820
  • John W Rathbone, who landed in Mobile, Ala in 1850 [6]
  • M Rathbone, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851 [6]
  • E Rathbone, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851 [6]

New Zealand Rathbone 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:

Rathbone Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Richard Rathbone, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Sir Edward Paget" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 19th December 1850 [7]
  • Mr. Rathbone, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Sir Edward Paget" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 19th December 1850 [7]
  • Mr. Basil Rathbone, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Stately" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 1st June 1851 [7]
  • Basil Rathbone, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Stately" in 1851
  • Thomas Rathbone, aged 43, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "Adamant" in 1874
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Rathbone (post 1700) +

  • Sir Basil Rathbone KBE, MC, Kt (1892-1967), English Tony Award winning actor, probably best known for his role as Sherlock Holmes which he reprised fourteen times
  • Henry Reed Rathbone (1837-1911), United States military officer and diplomat who was present at the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln
  • Monroe Jackson Rathbone V (b. 1984), American actor, best known for his role as Jasper Hale in The Twilight Saga
  • Perry Rathbone (1911-2000), American Museum Director, director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • John Rathbone (1750-1807), English artist, born in Cheshire who practised in Manchester, London, and Preston
  • Hannah Mary Rathbone (1798-1878), English authoress of 'The Diary of Lady Willoughby,' born near Wellington in Shropshire, daughter of Joseph Reynolds by his wife Deborah Dearman
  • William Rathbone IV (1757-1809), English merchant, eldest son of William Rathbone (1726-1789) who founded the firm of William Rathbone & Son at Liverpool in 1746
  • Alan "Rambo" Rathbone (d. 2016), English professional rugby league footballer who played from 1981 to 1985, member of the Great Britain National Team (1982-1985)
  • William Rathbone V (1787-1868), English merchant and politician
  • William Rathbone VI (1819-1902), English merchant and philanthropist
  • ... (Another 9 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


The Rathbone Motto +

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: Suaviter et Fortiter
Motto Translation: Mildly and firmly.


  1. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. ^ Harrison, Henry, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company, 2013. Print
  3. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  4. ^ Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  5. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  6. ^ 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)
  7. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


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