Thornton History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The lineage of the name Thornton begins with the Anglo-Saxon tribes in Britain. It is a result of when they lived in the parish of Thornton in the county of Yorkshire. Thornton is a topographic surname, which was given to a person who resided near a physical feature such as a hill, stream, church, or type of tree. During the Middle Ages, as society became more complex, individuals needed a way to be distinguishable from others. Toponymic surnames were developed as a result of this need. Various features in the landscape or area were used to distinguish people from one another. In this case the surname Thornton was originally derived from the Old English terms thorn meaning thorn bushes and tun meaning enclosure or town. Therefore the original bearers of the surname Thornton were named due to their close proximity to the village where the thorn bushes were plentiful.

Early Origins of the Thornton family

The surname Thornton was first found in Cheshire where the founder of the family was Peter Thornton, Secretary to the Blundells. Thornton in Lancashire is home to another branch of the family.

"In the Testa de Nevill is mentioned Matilda de Thorenton, who was at the king's donation, but unmarried. In the 17th of Edward II., half the town of Thornton was held by William Banastre, and the other moiety by Laurence de Thorneton, a descendant probably of the above-named Matilda." [1]

Another branch of the family was found in Arrow(e) in Cheshire from ancient times. "A moiety of the manor was in the Thornton family in the reign of Edward II., and passed by successive female heirs to the Duttons and Gerards." [1]

Nether Witton in Northumberland was also an ancient family seat. "In the 14th century, [the manor of Nether Witton] became the property of Roger de Thornton, who built the ancient baronial tower, and, dying in 1429, was succeeded by his son, whose daughter and heiress conveyed it by marriage to George, Lord Lumley, of Lumley Castle. The estate subsequently became again the property of the Thornton family, of whom James left two daughters, who, as co-heiresses, conveyed it by marriage to the Trevelyans and the Withams, whose descendants are at present its proprietors. The manorhouse, a handsome mansion of white freestone, erected in the 17th century, is beautifully situated in tastefully embellished grounds; it is said to have been visited by Cromwell in the summer of 1651, and to have been the hiding-place of Lord Lovat, after his flight from the field of Culloden." [1]

Gilbert de Thornton (d. 1295), was an English judge and was engaged as a crown advocate in 1291. On 2 Oct. 1284, he was sent to Ireland on the king's service and later became Chief Justice of the King's Bench. [2]

Yorkshire was a county of significance. "The explanation of so many Thorntons in the Yorkshire directories lies in the fact that there are at least three Thorntons in that county including Thornton-in-Craven, and Thornton-in-Lonsdale. " [3]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 confirmed the Yorkshire existence of the family there at that time (Hugh de Thorneton and Richard de Thorneton but also included a lone Cambridgeshire listing: Roger de Thoratone. [3]

Another source confirms the Yorkshire significance: " Yorkshire abounds with places so called. Thorne appears to have been an old Anglo-Saxon personal name; and hence Thornton may mean the homestead of Thorne." [4]

Early History of the Thornton family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Thornton research. Another 117 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1204, 1425, 1469, 1615, 1669, 1660, 1440, 1623, 1678 and are included under the topic Early Thornton History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Thornton Spelling Variations

Only recently has spelling become standardized in the English language. As the English language evolved in the Middle Ages, the spelling of names changed also. The name Thornton has undergone many spelling variations, including Thornton, Thornten and others.

Early Notables of the Thornton family (pre 1700)

Notables of this surname at this time include: Sir Roger Thornton of Soane, Cambridgeshire; and Sir Isaac Thornton (1615-1669), an English lawyer and politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1660. Robert Thornton ( fl. 1440), was the transcriber of the 'Thornton Romances.' Thornton spent much of his life in transcribing, and perhaps translating into English, romances and other works popular in his day. [2] Robert Thoroton (1623-1678), was an English antiquary, the son of Robert and Anne Thoroton. "His ancestors had long held considerable property in...
Another 86 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Thornton Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Thornton family to Ireland

Some of the Thornton family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 88 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Thornton migration to the United States +

To escape the unstable social climate in England of this time, many families boarded ships for the New World with the hope of finding land, opportunity, and greater religious and political freedom. Although the voyages were expensive, crowded, and difficult, those families that arrived often found greater opportunities and freedoms than they could have experienced at home. Many of those families went on to make significant contributions to the rapidly developing colonies in which they settled. Early North American records indicate many people bearing the name Thornton were among those contributors:

Thornton Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • James Thornton who arrived in Maryland in 1633
  • Joanna Thornton, who settled in New England with her husband Walter and Robert her son in 1635
  • Joanna Thornton, aged 44, who landed in New England in 1635 [5]
  • Robert Thornton, aged 11, who landed in New England in 1635 [5]
  • Walter Thornton, aged 36, who landed in America in 1635 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Thornton Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Mary Thornton, who settled in New York in 1705
  • Grace Thornton, who landed in Virginia in 1713 [5]
  • Ann Thornton, who arrived in New England in 1717 [5]
  • Margaret Thornton, aged 19, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1775 [5]
Thornton Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Thornton, aged 66, who arrived in New York in 1812 [5]
  • Seagood Thornton, aged 30, who arrived in Maryland in 1812 [5]
  • Nicholas Thornton, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816 [5]
  • John Thornton, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816 [5]
  • Mary Thornton, aged 42, who arrived in Baltimore, Maryland in 1834 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Thornton migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Thornton Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Christopher Thornton, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1749
  • Mr. John Thornton U.E. who settled in Canada c. 1784 [6]
  • Mr. Luke D Thornton U.E. who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1784 [6]
  • Mr. Matthew Thornton U.E. who settled in St. Andrews, Charlotte County, New Brunswick c. 1784 he is listed as signing the Declaration of Independence [6]
  • Mr. Peter Thornton U.E. who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1784 [6]
Thornton Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Remember Thornton, who arrived in Canada in 1830
  • Bleeker B Thornton, who arrived in Canada in 1830
  • Benjamin Thornton, who landed in Canada in 1832
  • Reuben S Thornton, who landed in Canada in 1832
  • Brian Thornton, aged 30, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Cupid" in 1834
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Thornton migration to Australia +

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

Thornton Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Malachi Thornton, English convict from Southampton, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on April 1st, 1822, settling in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • Mary Thornton, Scottish convict from Perth, who was transported aboard the "Amphitrite" on August 21, 1833, settling in New South Wales, Australia [8]
  • Mr. John Thornton, British Convict who was convicted in Kent, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Asia" on 20th July 1837, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [9]
  • Edward Thornton, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1839 [10]
  • Mr. Jacob Thornton, British Convict who was convicted in Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire, England for 10 years, transported aboard the "Asia" on 25th April 1840, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [11]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Thornton 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:

Thornton Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Thornton, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Hamilla Mitchell" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 30th November 1853 [12]
  • William Thornton, aged 21, a labourer, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Oliver Lang" in 1856
  • Miss Jane Thornton, Scottish settler from Whitburn travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Strathfieldsaye" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 29th April 1858 [13]
  • Mr. Thomas Thornton, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Strathfieldsaye" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 29th April 1858 [13]
  • Miss Mary Ann Thornton, (b. 1859), aged Infant, English settler, from Durham travelling from London aboard the ship "Robert Small" arriving in Lyttlelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 29th January 1860 [13]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Thornton (post 1700) +

  • Charles Bates "Tex" Thornton (1913-1981), American business executive, founder of Litton Industries, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • William M. Thornton, American Democrat politician, Member of Montana State Senate 5th District, 1889-92 [14]
  • William Taylor Thornton (1843-1916), American politician, Mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1891; Governor of New Mexico Territory, 1893-97 [14]
  • William L. Thornton, American politician, Member of New York State Senate 26th District, 1899-1902 [14]
  • William J. Thornton, American Republican politician, Member of Connecticut State House of Representatives from Manchester, 1933-36, 1939-40 [14]
  • William J. Thornton, American Republican politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Illinois 20th District, 1930, 1932; Chair of Pike County Republican Party, 1950 [14]
  • William F. Thornton, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Illinois, 1860 [14]
  • William E. Thornton, American politician, Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, 1995-97 [14]
  • William Thornton, American politician, Candidate for Pennsylvania State House of Representatives from Allegheny County 1st District, 1934 [14]
  • William Thornton, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Michigan, 1980 [14]
  • ... (Another 97 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Arrow Air Flight 1285
  • Mr. Christopher G Thornton (b. 1961), American Sergeant from Tacoma Park, Maryland, USA who died in the crash [15]
USS Arizona
  • Mr. George Hayward Thornton, American Gunner's Mate Third Class from Mississippi, USA working aboard the ship "USS Arizona" when she sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941, he died in the sinking [16]


The Thornton 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: Fideli tuta merces
Motto Translation: To the faithful go rewards


Suggested Readings for the name Thornton +

  • 334 Scharnhorst, Lynch, Barnett, Thornton by Frances Carter.

  1. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. 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. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  7. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Asia 1 voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1822 with 190 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/asia/1822
  8. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Amphitrite voyage to New South Wales, Australia in 1833 with 99 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/amphitrite/1833
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 7th February 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/asia/1837
  10. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) THOMAS HARRISON 1839. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1839ThomasHarrison.htm
  11. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 17th January 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/asia/1840
  12. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  13. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  14. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 2) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  15. ^ American War Memorials - Flight 1285. (Retrieved 2016, August 24) . Retrieved from http://www.uswarmemorials.org/html/monument_details.php?SiteID=317&MemID=550
  16. ^ Pearl Harbour: USS Arizona Casualties List Pearl Harbour December 7, 1941. (Retrieved 2018, July 31st). Retrieved from http://pearl-harbor.com/arizona/casualtylist.html


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