Hawthorne Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Hawthorne Surname Meaning

The Hawthorne surname in olden times denoted someone who lived by a bush or hedge of hawthorn. The Old English word was haegborn or hagethorn and meant “thorn used for making hedges and enclosures.”

The main surname spelling variants today are Hawthorne and Hawthorn, with Hathorne and Hathorn less in use now.

Hawthorne Surname Resources on The Internet

Hawthorne and Hawthorn Surname Ancestry

  • from England and SW Scotland
  • to Ireland (Ulster), America, Canada and Australia

England.  The first evidence of the Hawthorne name in England was the village of Hagethorn (now called Hawthorn) in the parish of Easington in Durham in which, according to priory records, William de Hagethorn was living in 1155. Whether there was succession from him is not known, although there have been some suggestions that the Scottish Hawthornes may have come from Durham.

The Hawthorn place-name was also found in Staffordshire. One family line began with the marriage of William Hawthorne and Elizabeth Hemming there in 1682. The county had about 20% of the English Hawthorns and Hawthornes in the 1881 census.

Hawthornes at Bray in Berkshire date back to the mid-1400’s. However, this line was later much more important for America than for England. Some oral history of these Hawthornes survived in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story An Old Woman’s Tale. Hawthorns in nearby Sunninghill have been traced to the early 1800’s.

Scotland. Hawthorn in Scotland is an old Galloway name of SW Scotland. The name first appeared in Kirkinner parish records in 1455. They were in later years proprietors of Meikle Aires in that parish. Some of them crossed to Ireland at the time of the Ulster plantation, such as Elizabeth Hawthorn of Meikle Aires who arrived in Derry in 1690.

Hawthorns in the 19th century included some Scots Irish such as Steel Hawthorn, who came to work in the coal mines in Lanarkshire in the 1820’s, and William Hawthorn, recorded as a cotton weaver in Ayr in the 1850’s.

Ireland. Early sightings of the Hawthorne name in Ireland were sparse, although they were clearly there because of the Hawthorne migrations to America in the 18th century. Some Scots Irish Hawthorns recorded at that time in Ulster were:

  • William Hawthorn who was born at Annaghmore in Derry in 1718.
  • Archibald Hawthorn of Legananny who died at Aghderg in Down in 1749.
  • and James Hawthorn who was recorded at Islandmagee in Antrim in 1772.

The Rev. Samuel Hawthorne was the Presbyterian minister at Kircubbin in county Down from 1869 to 1912. From his family came William Hawthorne, an electrical engineer who moved to England in the early 1900’s; and his son William, born in Newcastle, who was knighted for his work on the development of the jet engine.

The 1890 census revealed 27 Hawthorne families in Ireland, of whom 23 were to be found in Antrim, Down and Armagh.

AmericaThe Hathornes of Bray in Berkshire contributed two Hathorne lines, one in Massachusetts and the other in the South.

Massachusetts.  William Hathorne came to New England with Governor Winthrop on the Arbella in 1630, moving to Salem six years later. He was prominent in the defense of the town against Indians. He also prospered, as did his son John, as a merchant. However, there was a darker side to both of these men:

  • William Hathorne was a bitter persecutor of Quakers, remembered in particular for the whipping of Ann Coleman in 1662.
  • while John Hathorne was the presiding judge in the Salem witch trials of 1692, from whence is supposed to have come the Hathorne curse.

John Hathorne was the great great grandfather of the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, born in Salem in 1804, who was thought to have added the “w” to his name just to distance himself from his ancestors.

A younger John of this family had moved from Salem to Lynn around the year 1650. He was not like the other early Hathorne men. He was not on the bench or running the affairs of a pious Puritan colony. He ran taverns instead and there were many reports of drunkenness in his house. A descendant was General John Hathorn who fought in the Revolutionary War. His home at Warwick in upstate New York, built in 1773, still stands.

The family story through seven generations was narrated in Vernon Loggins’ 1951 book The Hawthornes.

South.  John Hawthorne came to Surry county, Virginia from Bray in Berkshire around the year 1700. His descendants later moved to Robeson county, North Carolina. The main lines from there went:

  • from Elder William Hawthorn, a Baptist minister, who in the 1820’s was among the first men to settle in what is now Grady county in SW Georgia.
  • from Kedar Hawthorne to the Rev. Kedar Hawthorne who moved to Conecuh county, Alabama around 1820 and converted there to the Baptist faith. His brothers Nathaniel and Dennis were also Baptist ministers and his son James B. Hawthorne, a pastor in Atlanta and Nashville, was a strong preacher in the Southern Baptist tradition.
  • from Joshua Hawthorne to Joseph Richard Hawthorne who was a wealthy landowner and planter first in Conecuh and then in Wilcox county,  Alabama. His Hawthorne House at Pine Apple, built in 1854, is a historic plantation house.

Irish.  Some other Hawthornes were from Ireland. Adam Hawthorn left county Monaghan as part of a Presbyterian exodus for Charleston, South Carolina in 1767. He settled in what is now Winnsboro, Fairfield county.

Then Samuel Hawthorne, thought to have been from somewhere in Ireland, came to Mercer county, Pennsylvania in the 1770’s. His grandsons James (J.C.) and William were both adventurous men:

  • J.C. Hawthorne studied medicine which he first practiced when he arrived in California in 1850. Seven years later he moved to Oregon where he established a county hospital in Portland. He was considered a pioneer in treating mental illness there.
  • while his cousin William Hawthorne arrived in California in 1856, having taken the longer route via the isthmus. He too moved on, in this case to Nevada in 1860 where he prospered and became a judge.

Samuel Baskin Hathorn, born in Ireland (possibly Cork), immigrated first to South Carolina, and then to Georgia, and finally settled in Covington county, Mississippi around 1818. He was probably responsible for the large number of Hathorns found in Mississippi. He and his son Nevin were both slave-owners.

Another possibly related Hathorn family had its origin in Nick Hathorn, who was born in South Carolina and came to Covington county around 1825. His son Daniel Hathorn was friends with the Wild Bill Sullivan of the Mississippi backwoods. The Hathorn name also cropped up in nearby Jefferson Davis county.

The Federal census of 1860 had no fewer than 60 slaves named Hathorn recorded in the state. Pauline Hathorn, who grew up on the Paradise cotton plantation in Dover during the Great Depression, charted her remarkable life’s journey from that lowly position in her 2009 book Escape from Paradise.

Canada.  James and Eliza Hawthorne left Derry for Ontario in 1848, eventually settling in Morris township in Huron county. Many of their descendants later migrated west, to Manitoba and Saskatchewan.  Meanwhile Robert Hawthorne left Antrim for Ontario in the same year of 1848 and settled in Ross township in Renfrew county with his second wife Ann.

All these pioneer settlers lived to a grand old age – James to ninety, Eliza to ninety two, Robert to eighty five, and Ann to ninety two.

Australia and New Zealand. The Hawthornes shown here also had Irish origins. James Hawthorne departed Belfast in 1840 at the age of seventeen and arrived in Sydney late that year on the Royal Consort. He married and settled down there.

Alfred Hawthorne was born in London, although his father had come there from Ireland. He was in New Zealand by the early 1870’s where he eventually made his home in Birmingham.

Hawthorne Surname Miscellany

Hawthorns and Hawthornes Today.  Hawthorn and Hawthorne are the main spellings today, with Hawthorne predominating.

Numbers (000’s) Hawthorn Hawthorne
UK    2     4
America     6
Elsewhere     1     4
Total     3    14

Interestingly, the highest concentration of the Hawthorne name in the UK is in Northern Ireland.  The Hathorn spelling has almost dropped out of use.  It is still found in the South, mainly in Mississippi.

An Old Woman’s Tale.  There was said to have been a Hawthorne who established an inn at the foot of Hawthorne Hill on the ancient road between London and Oxford.   The sign of the inn known as The Woodman showed a green-coated forester, axe raised about to chop into the trunk of a great gray oak.

Nathaniel Hawthorne related the oral tradition of the legend of the recovered Roman treasure by the humble innkeeper that was his ancestor in An Old Woman’s Tale.

The Hathorne Curse.  Judge John Hathorne presided over the famous Salem witch trials in the 1690’s.  He believed he was cursed by one of the convicted witches.

The judge appeared to have been excessively harsh on Sarah Good during his examination of her.  In Arthur Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible, he was depicted as a biased and vindictive judge who acted more like a prosecutor than an impartial judge.

Sarah Good was said to have issued a curse on her way to the gallows.  When the Rev. Nicholas Noyes asked her to confess, she exclaimed: “I am no more of a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take my life, God will give you blood to drink.” The Rev. Nicholas Noyes later choked on his own blood in 1717.

The judge’s descendant Nathaniel Hawthorne knew about the curse and, in part, his novel The House of the Seven Gables was based upon this curse.   In The Custom House (an introduction to The Scarlet Letter), Nathaniel expressed his disapproval of his great grandfather’s acts and he attempted to ‘remove’ the curse:

“At all events, I, the present writer, as their representative, hereby take shame upon myself for their sakes, and pray that any curse incurred by them–as I have heard, and as the dreary and unprosperous condition of the race, for many a long year back, would argue to exist–may be now and henceforth removed.”

Nathaniel added the “w” to his surname after finishing college probably to disassociate himself from his ancestors.

John Hawthorne and the Elder William Hawthorn.  John Hawthorne was born in Surry county, Virginia in 1740 and as a young man moved to Robeson county, South Carolina. Later on, he fought as a lieutenant in the Revolutionary War.  His two eldest sons Nathaniel and William also served.

Nathaniel died in the conflict, but both John and William survived. After the war John was granted a land lottery for his services and in 1820, now an old man, moved to Georgia. He died there in 1836 at the ripe old age of ninety six.

William Hawthorn (he tended to spell his name without an “e”) had been born in Robeson county in 1762 and moved to Georgia earlier than his father, around 1806.  He made his home in Pulaski county, became a Baptist minister, and was elected a state senator.

In 1822 he gave up his position and blazed a trail through forty miles of wilderness to what is now the Grady county area of SW Georgia. Finding the area to his liking, he and his family settled along the area of Tired Creek about three miles south of the present location of Cairo.  The route he took is now known as the Hawthorn Trail in his honor because of its role in opening up SW Georgia for settlement.

In 1826 William organized the constitution of Tired Creek Baptist church and was called to be its first pastor.  He served there until 1838.  Elder Hawthorn died in 1846 and was buried in the cemetery there.

The Rev. Samuel Hawthorne of Kircubbin.  The Rev. Samuel Hawthorne became the fourth minister of the Presbyterian church at Kircubbin in county Down in 1869.  He was then aged just 27 after having graduated five years earlier from Queen’s University in Belfast.  He was the second son of William Hawthorne, a respectable farmer and rigid Covenanter who, until his death at the age of 92, repeated at family prayers every Sabbath morning the Prologue to the Solemn League and Covenant.

In 1873, when on a visit to Hamburg in 1873, Samuel happened to meet a Miss Alice Peterson, the daughter of a Yorkshire merchant who had settled in that town.  He went back the following year and married her and the couple returned to county Down. Their son William was born in 1878.

The Rev. Hawthorne’s ministry at Kircubbin was of long duration, extending until 1912. During that time his son William completed his studies at Queen’s University as an electrical engineer and left for England where he worked on the electrification of the railways around Newcastle.

His wife Alice died in 1912 and Samuel decided to retire. During his ministry he had baptized 620 children and performed 112 marriages.  At the time of the Great War he went to live in Edinburgh where his daughter was in training.   He died there in 1924. 

James and Eliza Hawthorne in Canada.  The Brussels Post of Wingham in Huron county, Ontario reported the following on September 17, 1903:

“On September 3rd 1903 there passed away at his residence in Lower Wingham James Hawthorne, one of the early settlers of Morris township, at the age of ninety years.   The deceased was born in the county of Derry in Ireland.  His life partner, whose maiden name was Marshall, survives him bearing the weight of ninety years.

With their family of five children they left Ireland in 1848 and came to Canada, settling first in Kingston and four years later removing to Colbourne township.  Nine years afterwards in 1862, they removed to the township of Morris where they resided until four years ago.  Ten children were born to them of whom seven remain.  The deceased was a member of the Presbyterian Church.”

His wife Eliza was not to outlive her husband long.  She had headed out west to Manitoba to live with her son William and his family.  The Wingham Times reported on December 15, 1904:

“Mrs. Eliza Hawthorne a former resident of this section died at Waskada, Manitoba on Friday last aged 92 years. Mrs. Hawthorne left here some nine months ago for the West.  The remains are being brought home and the funeral will take place in Lower Wingham this Thursday afternoon.”

Their son William died in Manitoba in 1911 in his 67th year.  He had come to Manitoba from Morris township in 1888 and been a farmer there.

Hawthorne Names

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne was a 19th century American novelist and short story writer.    
  • Michael Hawthorn was the British racing driver who became the UK’s first F1 World Racing Champion in 1958. 
  • Nigel Hawthorne was a British actor best known for his scheming civil servant Sir Humphrey in the TV series Yes Minister.

Hawthorne Numbers Today

  • 6,000 in the UK (most numerous in Northern Ireland)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Hawthorne and Like Surnames

These are the names of some literary giants.  If you are interested in the name behind the literary figure, please click on the surname below.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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