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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

Origins Available: English, Scottish

Where did the English Thorburn family come from? What is the English Thorburn family crest and coat of arms? When did the Thorburn family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Thorburn family history?

The origins of the name Thorburn are with the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. The name is derived from the baptismal name for the son of Thurburn. This ancient personal name was originally derived from the name of the Saxon God of Thunder, Thor. After the Norman Conquest, the Old English naming system gradually dissolved. Old English names became less common and were replaced by popular continental European names. The earliest surnames in England were found shortly after the Norman Conquest and are of Norman French rather than native English origins.


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. Thorburn has been spelled many different ways, including Thorburn, Thurburn, Thurbrand, Torburn and others.

First found in Norfolk where Thomas filius Thurbernus (Turberni) was listed 1153-1186. A few years later, Richard Turbern was listed in the Feet of Fines in 1198 and later, Richard Thurubern was listed at Ely in Norfolk in 1277. The name may have been listed in the Domesday Book as Thurbernus, Turbern and Torbern, [1] but it from the Norfolk branch that seems the most prevalent in these early years. In Sussex, the name claims descendancy from Thunder (Thor) or Thunder's Hill at Chittingly. Thor was the name of the ancient Saxon God of Thunder.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Thorburn research. Another 99 words(7 lines of text) covering the years 1197, 1273, 1327, 1607, 1688, 1656 and 1659 are included under the topic Early Thorburn History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 23 words(2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Thorburn Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


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 Thorburns to arrive in North America:

Thorburn Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • William Thorburn arrived in Virginia in 1716
  • Margaret Thorburn, aged 36, landed in New York in 1775
  • James Thorburn, who arrived in Virginia in 1786
  • Grant Thorburn, who landed in New York in 1794

Thorburn Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Miss Thorburn, who landed in New York in 1800
  • Frederick Thorburn, who arrived in Arkansas in 1882
  • Thomas Thorburn, who arrived in Arkansas in 1882

Thorburn Settlers in United States in the 20th Century

  • William Thorburn, who landed in Mississippi in 1901
  • Charles J. Thorburn, aged 38, who landed in America from Cardiff, in 1903
  • Agnes Thorburn, aged 23, who landed in America from Kilmarnock, Scotland, in 1904
  • David Scott Thorburn, aged 30, who landed in America, in 1906
  • Christina Thorburn, aged 31, who settled in America from Falkirk, Scotland, in 1907

Thorburn Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • Sir Robert Thorburn, KCMG, from Juniper Bank, Peeblesshire, came to St. John's, Newfoundland in 1852

Thorburn Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century

  • Eleanor Thorburn, aged 30, who emigrated to St. Johns, Newfoundland, in 1907
  • Eleanora Thorburn, aged 30, who settled in Montreal, Canada, in 1909

Thorburn Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • William Thorburn, aged 23, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Duchess of Argyle" in 1842
  • Mary Thorburn, aged 21, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Duchess of Argyle" in 1842
  • Elisabeth Thorburn, aged 6, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Duchess of Argyle" in 1842
  • Robert Thorburn, aged 19, a farm servant, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Philip Laing" in 1848
  • Andrew Thorburn, aged 17, a farm servant, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Philip Laing" in 1848


  • Shona Thorburn (b. 1982), English-born, Canadian professional WNBA basketball player
  • June Thorburn (1931-1967), popular English actress whose life was cut short by an airplane crash in 1967
  • Chris Thorburn (b. 1983), Canadian NHL player, alternate captain of the Winnipeg Jets
  • Clifford Charles Devlin "Cliff" Thorburn (b. 1948), Canadian retired World Champion snooker player and member of the Order of Canada
  • Sir Robert Thorburn (1836-1906), Scottish-born, Newfoundland merchant and politician, premier of Newfoundland (1885 to 1889)
  • Sandy Thorburn (b. 1963), Canadian composer, arranger, musical director
  • Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935), Scottish bird illustrator whose paintings were regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy
  • Alexander "Alex" Gibbon Thorburn (1836-1894), Scottish-born, Canadian merchant and politician who served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories (1888 to 1891)
  • Dr. James Thorburn (1830-1905), Canadian physician, medical researcher and military surgeon
  • Sir James Jamieson Thorburn (1864-1929), British colonial administrator, Governor of the Gold Coast (1910 to 1912)



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  1. ^ Reaney P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)

Other References

  1. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  2. Hitching, F.K and S. Hitching. References to English Surnames in 1601-1602. Walton On Thames: 1910. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0181-3).
  3. Thirsk, Joan. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7 Volumes. Print.
  4. Crispin, M. Jackson and Leonce Mary. Falaise Roll Recording Prominent Companions of William Duke of Normandy at the Conquest of England. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  5. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  6. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  7. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  8. Bede, The Venerable. Historia Ecclesiatica Gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History Of the English People). Available through Internet Medieval Sourcebook the Fordham University Centre for Medieval Studies. Print.
  9. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  10. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, The Privy Council, Knightage and Compainonage. London: Burke Publishing, 1921. Print.
  11. ...

The Thorburn Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Thorburn 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 20 June 2013 at 14:08.

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