And their ancestors, the Thornton Family in Hellidon, Northampton, England
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Welcome to the Thornton family page of my family history website. This is the family of Winnifred Pauline Thornton's father, John Thornton. The Thornton paternal lineage comes from somewhere in England having emigrated in the mid-19th century. The early origins of this family are unknown. The Thornton family is one of the most tragic families I have yet researched. Their earliest North American ancestor was allegedly expelled from his family estate in England by a heartless family and sent to Canada as a lone teenager where he lived as a near-pauper. As an adult he tragically lost his wife just shortly after they were married and was forced to give up his infant daughter for adoption. He couldn't even afford a funeral for his wife and she is buried in an unmarked pauper's grave. This sad tale is told in more detail below.
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Please Note: This page is intended only as a narrative historical overview of this family. There is additional detailed information available for almost ever person presented on this page. To avoid the unnecessary work of double-entering some data, the additional information can be found in the accompanying GEDCOM database. Please make sure you click on the INDEX button at the bottom of the page so you don't miss out on potentially valuable additional information.
The research presented on this page is not mine alone. It contains information submitted by all the Fellow Researchers listed below. I am indebted to them for their generous contributions. This page is intended as a place for researchers to freely and cooperatively share our research with each other. It would be too cumbersome a task to reference each piece of data as to which researcher it has come from. The information shown on this page should be understood as a product of ALL of the Fellow Researchers. I am merely the editor and not the sole author. - Ryk
The surname Thornton is of English origin and is a geographic surname. It probably originated as "Thorn Town", indicating someone who had been born in, or lived in Thorn Town. Thus there are probably multiple family origins for this surname, as many families could have come from such a Thorn Town. There are more than a dozen English towns with the word "thorn" in them, including Thornage, Thorncliff, Thornbury and Thornborough (both meaning "the burgh of Thorn"), Thornby and Thornaby (both meaning "Thorn Abbey"), and even Hawthorn. There are 34 different placenames in England and Scotland containing the name Thornton. The Thornton surname could have originated from families in any, and probably all, of these towns.
The Irish surname, Drennan, which means "Blackthorn", has also been found to have been corrupted into English in the form of Thornton.
"Tarleton" is another variation of Thornton found in the Gloucester and Lancashire areas.
Click here to learn more about surnames.
According to family tradition, Thomas Thornton was allegedly banished from his family farm in England over an incident relating to a prize mare. His family apparently had vast estates just outside of London. Thomas' father had a prized black mare that was being raised for showing. No one was supposed to ride this horse, but one day, when Thomas' father was in London on business, Thomas took her out for a ride. The horse stumbled and was fatally injured. The story further goes that he nearly rode the horse over a cliff [though this could be an embellishment]. Thomas' mother was furious. She knew that her husband would also be furious so she packed Thomas off with whatever he could carry and shipped him off to Canada before his father returned from London "to kill him". They never spoke again. Thomas allegedly arrived in Canada in his teens with no family, no trade, no place to live, not knowing a soul, with perhaps a suitcase of belongings and whatever money his mother had given him.
Census records prove this story to be completely false... sort of...
The story is certainly not true of Thomas himself. Thomas' second marriage record gives his parents as William and Sophia Thornton. Only one such couple exists in the IGI. They have a son matching the birth of Thomas, and census records confirm him to be the correct Thomas. He is found in the 1841 and 1851 censuses in England and does not appear in Canada until 1861, while he disappears from the 1861 English census.
These census records confirm that Thomas was living as a bachelor with his widowed father in Hallidon, Northamptonshire, England as late as 1851 at age 28. Both Thomas and his father were employed as agricultural labourers -- clearly not a baron and his son! Sometime between 1851-1861 Thomas immigrated by himself to Oxford County, Ontario, Canada. There was already a large family of English-born Thorntons living in Oxford at that time and it's possible that Thomas moved to be with relatives.
But the story of the falling out with the land-owning father may not be entirely false either. It may simply be distorted and attached to the wrong generation. Just a stone's throw from Hallidon is the large estate of Brockhall and Newnham, owned by the Thornton family from 1652 to the mid-twentieth century. Census records show a finite concentration of Thornton families living within 10 miles of Brockhall strongly suggesting a common family of origin for all these families. So it would appear very likely that Thomas did descend from a lesser cadet branch of the Thorntons of Brockhall and Newnham. And this family did also own land just outside of London. The story of the horse could easily be true, but probably of Thomas' grandfather, and over time the story has simply been attached to the wrong person.
Hellidon, Northampton is located about 20 miles west of Hardingstone, Northampton where the Harrold family originated. Three generations later, John Harrold's great-grandson, Lloyd Richardson married William Thornton's great-granddaughter, Winnifred Thornton.
We begin with William Thornton:
William THORNTON, b. 1798 in Hellidon, Northampton, England. William married on 6 MAR 1820 in Hellidon and Heyford, Northampton, England to Sophia BARNES b: ABT 16 OCT 1791 in Heyford, Northampton, England. They resided in Hellidon and latterly Daventry, Northamptonshire, England. William worked as a baker and agricultural labourer. They had the following children:
We don't know where or how Thomas Thornton met Sarah (Barnes) Reynolds, but she had just been widowed and was caring for a newborn son, Charles. The fact that Thomas' mother's maiden name was also Barnes may not be a coincidence, but no connection has presently been shown. Sarah Barnes was born 1849 in Simcoe, Norfolk County, Ontario. She married firstly on 13 FEB 1864 in Knox Presbyterian Church, Jarvis, Norfolk County, Ontario to Richard Oliver REYNOLDS of Norfolk County. They had one son together:
Shortly after the birth of Charles, his father, Richard Oliver Reynolds, died, leaving Sarah as a young widowed mother. Sarah (Barnes) Reynolds married secondly BEF 1870 in Ontario to Thomas Thornton, although no record of their marriage has yet been found. Thomas married Sarah and raised Charles as his own son. Thomas and Sarah later had two children of their own:
It was shortly after the birth of Anne that tragedy struck again. It was January, mid-winter, and baby Anne was no more than 8 weeks old. Thomas was at work and Charlie and John were supposed to bring in the firewood before going to school (or to play). However they only brought the firewood to the porch instead of into the house before they went off. Sarah was alone at home with a nursing infant girl and found the house getting too cold. Since the boys had forgotten to bring in the firewood she had to go outside to bring in the wood. She caught pneumonia and later died from it.
Since Anne was just a few weeks old and still nursing, Thomas could not look after her and he was forced to give her up for adoption. She was raised by an unknown family in Hamilton.
Even though Thomas' birth family allegedly had vast estates in England, Thomas could not even afford a funeral for his wife and she is buried in an unmarked pauper's grave. He was invoiced $2 for the digging fee -- that appears to have been all he could afford.
Thomas' death certificate lists his occupation as "stove mounter" while the 1881 census lists his occupation as "stone mason" so it seems likely that he had no specific trade. He was probably a general labourer working at whatever job he could find.
Because Thomas' sons, Charlie and John, were just boys when their mother died, and because of the circumstances of her death it's likely that John and Charlie blamed themselves for their mother's death for much of much of their lives.
Charlie (Reynolds) grew up and moved to Toronto. His descendants now live in the United States.
Thomas Thornton married secondly to Charlotte Cowles (nee Donner), the widow of Richard Cowles. She was born in 1850 in New York, United States. Thomas and Charlotte had twins together whose names are not known:
Shortly after the birth of the twins, Thomas Thornton died. After Thomas' death, Charlotte abandoned her young twins and her adopted teenage son with a relative and then moved to Michigan. It is not known why. John Thornton was 19 when his father died and his step-mother abandoned him and his twin half-siblings.
In the 1901 census, Thomas' son, John Thornton, is shown living with a 67 year old woman named Amanda Woolverton, born 13 DEC 1834 in rural Ontario of American ancestry. She is recorded in the census as John's mother! Who is she? Could she be a previously unknown third wife? That would be hard to comprehend as her existence should have been preserved in family tradition. Could she be the same person as Charlotte Cowles prior to moving to Michigan? That would also be unlikely as this woman would have been in her 50s when the twins were born. Could she be Charlotte Cowles, remarried and going by a middle name and now returned from Michigan? Hopefully future research will answer these questions.
John Thornton was born 1 JAN 1870 in Woodstock, Oxford County, Ontario, but was raised in the Niagara Peninsula. He worked on the railroad which required him to move around a lot. In the late 1800s he met Elvira Furler from Oakland, Norfolk County (just south of Brantford). Elvira's family story is told on the Furler Family Page. John Thornton and Elvira Furler were married in Tilsonburg, but lived in Beamsville. In 1909 John and Elvira moved from Beamsville to Vineland Station, Lincoln Co., Ontario on the south shore of Lake Ontario in the Niagara Peninsula. John and Elvira raised nine children:
People researching this family include the following. If you wish your name added to the fellow researchers' list, please contact me. To contact any of these researchers, please go to my discussion forum (click the button at the top of the page) and leave a message in the THORNTON Discussion Forum.
|Hamilton, Ontario, Canada||all branches of this family|
|Kevin Wooton||Daventry, Northampton, England||all branches of this family|
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|THORNTON : 1700-1890 : Byfield : Maxine Gutteridge|
|THORNTON : 1740-1800 : Blakesley : Mark Savage|
|THORNTON : 1841- : Northampton : Dave Thornton|
|THORNTON : All : Byfield : Malcolm Ward|
|THORNTON : 1700-1799 : Brackley : Anne Burton|
Thornton of Brockhall and Newnham, co. Northampton, Egnland
NOTE:..Descended from JOHN THORNTON, of Newham, temp. Henry VIII, who m. LETTICE, sister and heir of THOMAS NEWNHAM, of Newnham; THOMAS REEVE THORNTON, Esq., of Brockhall, was High Sheriff co. Northampton in 1798.
ARMS:..Argent (silver), on a bend Gules (red), three escarbuncles Or (gold).
CREST:..A demi lion rampant Gules (red), charged on the shoulder with an escarbuncle Or (gold
Translation and Interpretation for an Old Thornton Document by "Bob
Thornton (Brockhall ) 1283-1950, 3671 docs., 70 boxes, refs. Th & ThB
Brockhall was built by Edward Eyton but he sold the house to Thomas Thornton of Newnham in 1652. Thornton was a lawyer and Recorder of Daventry. Thomas Reeve Thornton (d. 1862) married Susannah Fremeaux, the heiress of her grandfather James Fremeaux of Kingsthorpe (d. 1799). Fremeaux was a Huguenot merchant who had been naturalized in 1752 and had acquired the Cooke estate at Kingsthorpe in 1762 through his own marriage. He built Kingsthorpe hall to designs by John Johnson in 1773. Kingsthorpe went to T.R. Thornton's 3rd son the rev. William Thornton. Brockhall was inherited by The Rev. Thornton's eldest son in 1884 and Kingsthorpe went again to a younger son Francis Hugh Thornton (see below). The Thorntons remained at brockhall until 1969. On the death of col. Thomas Anson Thornton in 1978 the male line became extinct. Brockhall is now divided up into flats.
Gentry family with estates in Brockhall, Norton, Muscott, Dodford, Newnham, Badby, Daventry, Farthingstone, Flore, Weedon Bec, Brixworth, Brafield and Little Houghton, Cold Ashby, Ladbrooke (Warwickshire) and Budge Row (London). Charters for Brockhall, manor court rolls for Newnahm and Badby from 1407, 16th and 17thC. customs. Papers on breaking up of Evesham Abbey estates at Dissolution and on Daventry Priory. 17thC. papers on management of common field system at Newnham. Flore inclosure account book 1778. late 17th/18thC. estate and household account books. 18thC. estate correspondence.Thomas Thornton's account book 1582 - 1600. samuel Thornton's accounts as a London merchant 1680 - 1696. Good l7th/ l8th/l9thC. family correspondence, on marriage of William Thornton, 1750's, on education of sons 1780's, illness of John Thornton, early 19thC. Notebooks as J.P.'s 1700 - 1718, 1789, travel journals 1820's, Norfolk, Wales and Ireland, Devon, 1846 inventory.
Papers on the executorships of Dr. [Paul] Ives and Thomas Adams of Whilton, mid 18thC. On Poultney family estate at Misterton (Leicestershire) 1590 - 1632. On Lee family estate at Cold Ashby 1619 - 1740. Diaries of William Lee 1723 - 1728 (on microfilm). Accounts for late Cordwell Hammond of Putney, draper, 1681 - 1691. On Thomas Boddington of Clapton (Middlesex) 18th/early19thC.
18thC. Brockhall parish records.
fremeaux of Kingsthorpe archives including James Fremeaux's merchant's account book 1751 - 1774 in Smyrna, Leghorn and Amsterdam and Amsterdam letter book 1794 - 1798. ERstate accounts 1790 - 1802 for Kingsthorpe, Hannington, dalscote in Pattishall, Rothersthorpe, earls Barton.
Cooke family deeds and papers, Kingsthorpe and Earls barton. Bills for building and fitting out Kingsthorpe hall 1774 - 1775. 18thC. letters and papers of Mrs Susannah Fremeaux.
Note: Certain catalogued items have been withdrawn by the family.
This catalogue is available on the National Access to Archives website, see related links below.
(Further Thornton of Kingsthorpe items incliude the travel journals of the Rev. William Thornton to France and Scotland, 1828 and to Belgium and the Rhine 1860's with a family history and memoir 1866 and his journal 1853 - 1855, ref.X4937 and the diaries of Mary Susan Thornton 1866 - 1899, ref. YZ 2163 - 2180 and ZB 1722)
Frank H. Thornton collection 1630 - 1877, 100 docs., ref. FHT
Francis or Frank Hugh Thornton (d. 1937) inherited Kingsthorpe Hall from his father in law the Rev. William Thornton (see above Thornton of Brockhall). The Thorntons had inherited the esatate through marriage to the Fremeaux heiress at the beginning of the 19thC.. On F.H.Thornton's death the mansion and park were acquired by Northampton Borough council. The house is presently empty.
Mainly deeds for Fremeaux estates in Hannington and Earls Barton from the Cooke and Wilmer families. 18thC. Kingsthorpe manor charity trust deeds. Agreement for inclosure hedging at Earls Barton 1771. Some other Fremeaux financial papers. 19thC. estate papers for Hardwick and estate notebook for Kingsthorpe, Duston,
Ancestors of George Washington
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This page was last updated on January 07, 2010