This interesting surname is of Olde English and occasionally Scottish, pre 7th century origins. It is locational and northern, being from any of the several places called Thornton in counties of Lancashire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, or from the lands of Thornton in the Mearns, Scotland. Wherever found the name derives from the words "thorn" meaning a thorn bush or hedge, and "tun", an enclosure or settlement. In this case the word "thorn" is believed to have defensive implications, thorn hedges being deliberately grown around fortified positions both to keep would be raiders out, and the owners cattle in.Locational names were frequently given to the local lord of the manor, as in the first recording below, but more usually were "from" names. That is to say names given to people after they left their original homes, to move elsewhere. Early interesting recordings suggest that the name was spelt Thorntowne in Scotland as late as the year 1609, and that a number of Scottish merchants of the name settled in the state of Prussia, the spelling being recorded there as Dornthon in 1644. Other recordings include Henry Thornton in the Freemans rolls of the city of Canterbury. Kent, in 1362, whilst three centuries later in April 1635, Walter Thornton and his wife, Joanna, left the port of London, England, on the ship "Suzan and Ellin" bound the colony of Virginia. They were amonst the first to settle in the new colony. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Beatrice de Thornton. This was dated 1202, in the "Fine Court Rolls" of the county of Yorkshire, during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216.
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