Norton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Norton Meaning
surname Norton comes from the place-name Norton (from nor meaning
“north” plus tun “farm” or “settlement”), of which
there have been many
Similar type
English place-names and surnames are Sutton, Easton, and Weston.
In the 1086 Domesday Book
the Norton place-name could be found as far apart as Runcorn in
Doncaster in south Yorkshire, as well as Northamptonshire and Suffolk
the name
Midsomer Norton, Chipping Norton, and Brize
Norton. An early example of the surname
was Osuuardus de Nordtone
of Kent,
in the Domesday Book.
Ireland and Scotland Naughton or MacNaughton could become Norton.

Norton Resources on

Norton Ancestry

The Norton family of Sharpenhoe in Bedfordshire
was one early Norton line, beginning with l
de Nor
ville in
the 12th century. Norville
sometime in the 13th century.
Thomas Norton of Sharpenhoe prospered as a grocer in London in
times and his son Thomas made a name for himself as a poet and as a
of Catholics.

From this family, it was
thought, came the Nortons of York. The
male line there was originally Coigners.
When Roger Conyers married the Norton heiress around the year
1300, the
family adopted the Norton name. Richard
Norton and many of his kinfolk were involved in the Catholic Rising of the
in 1569 and had their estates attainted as a consequence. Still, the line did continue to Sir Fletcher
Norton of Grantley who became Speaker of the House of Commons in 1769.

“Sir Fletcher Norton ended his time as
Speaker with a dubious reputation. He
was d
by satirists as Sir Bullface Doublef
and described by
Horace Walpole as
rose from obscure infamy to that infamous fame which will long stick to

Another early Norton family traced its
ancestry back to East Tisted in Hampshire in 1308.
During the course of the 16th century they
became one of the leading families of Hampshire. Colonel
Richard Norton was a Parliamentary
officer of some distinction in the Civil War.
He survived the Restoration.
However, his line ended with the next generation.

Meanwhile John Norton was the first of the
Nortons of Sheldwich in Kent, inheriting the Lees-court estate there
marriage in the 1450’s. Sir John
of this family was sheriff of Kent in 1513 and again in 1522.

Robert de Norton was Sheriff of Norfolk in 1269.

And there were some early Nortons also
in the west country. The spelling in
Somerset was Nourton or Nurton in the 15th century but became Norton a
later. William Norton was a churchwarden
at Ilminster in 1543; while a Norton family of tanners lived nearby at
and White Lackington around this time.
Subsequent Nortons were embroiled in a
Norton family dispute

which impoverished the family.

The later
distribution of the Norton name reflected to some extent this earlier
incidence. Yorkshire was one
concentration, London and the southeast another. There
was also a number of Nortons in Norfolk
and Lincolnshire.

Ireland. The Gaelic O’Neachtain was most commonly anglicized as
Naughton but sometimes as Norton. In
early times the O’Neachtains were recognized as the hereditary
door-keepers of
the kings of Connacht and the chief commanders of the cavalry of Ui

They were displaced at the
time of the Anglo-Norman invasion and they then
settled in the Athlone
region of Roscommon.
They remain
clan until the English incursions during the reign of Elizabeth. Many lost their land
at the time of Cromwell.

elsewhere in Ireland were often of Scottish origin.

The Naughton/Norton name also appeared on the west coast of Scotland in
what is now Argyllshire. Naughton here
came from the Pictish name Nechtan.

The MacNaughton name appeared in Lochowe as
early as the 12th century. The
MacNaughtons of Dunderawe were a pro-Royalist family at the time of the
War. But John MacNaughton, who was born
in the region in 1760, became John Norton.
And the family thereafter were Nortons.

Nortons from England came mainly to New England and some
to Virginia and
elsewhere. America also had Irish
Nortons and even some Jewish Nortons.

England had
a number of early Norton arrivals:

  • George
    who came to Salem in 1629 and died thirty years later in
    Wenham. He was by trade a carpenter and later in his life an
  • two brothers, the Revs.
    John and William, who arrived from Bedfordshire and settled in Ipswich
    around the year 1632. They were followed by their uncle Thomas
    some six
    years later. He made his home in Guilford, Connecticut.
    There were
    several other
    Norton relatives who
    settled elsewhere in Connecticut.
  • while
    Nicholas Norton arrived from Somerset around the year 1640, settling
    first in
    Weymouth and moving to
    Vineyard some twenty years later. He lived onto
    1690. His progeny were prolific. In 1790, one hundred years
    it was said that 174 of the 1,350 inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard were

Bedfordshire line of Nortons in America (with antecedents in England)
was first
presented in Charles Eliot Norton’s 1863 account The Genealogy of
the Norton
The main descent in America
was via the Rev. William Norton. From
his line came the 19th century Unitarian preacher Andrews Norton, a
opposer of Emerson’s trancendentalism, and Charles Eliot Norton, his
son the

It is thought that Hiram
Norton’s family originated from Connecticut.
They were Loyalists who took refuge in Canada during the
War. Hiram started a stage coach service
between Montreal and Toronto in the 1830’s.
He later left Canada and settled in Lockport, Illinois where he
an extensive canal operation for grain and ran a large water-powered
mill. He became by the 1860’s one of the
wealthiest people in northern Illinois.

Elsewhere. The
Nortons of Fluvanna in
Virginia started with Christopher
a British naval officer who came to Virginia in the 1730’s and later
there. His grandchildren all fought on
the American side in the Revolutionary War.
After the War, two of these grandchildren settled in Kentucky:

  • one
    line from there led to Nimrod Norton who
    moved to Missouri and later to Texas. He
    was a Confederate officer during the Civil War.
  • from
    another Kentucky line came David Norton
    who became a Mormon and headed to Salt Lake in 1847 on the first
    pioneer wagon

Norton was a 27 year old watchmaker who left London for Philadelphia on
the Amelia
in 1774. A descendant is the actor
Edward Norton.

Norton had arrived in Pennsylvania in the early 1800’s from
Ireland. His
sons James and Matthew worked on the railroad in Canada where they met
Laird brothers and learnt the lumber
trade. But it was in Winoma, Minnesota whe
they started the Laird Norton company
the 1850’s. That company, in its seventh generation of family
is now spread over the American West.

was James Naughton in Roscommon in 1834 and James Norton there in 1839. He and his wife emigrated first to New York
and then to Illinois in the late 1840’s.
Michael Norton, born in Roscommon, came to New York as a child
this time. He became a New York state
senator in the 1870’s.

Norton can be a Jewish name. The most famous bearer of the name
undoubtedly Joshua Norton who was born in London, emigrated with his
parents to
South Africa in 1820, and then arrived in San Francisco at the time of
the Gold
Rush. There he remained, the celebrated Emperor
who died poor but famous.

Canada. Richard Norton from London came out as a
young man to Canada in 1714 under the auspices of the Hudson Bay
Company. His son Moses, thought to have
been a
mixed-blood son of his father and a native woman, was also a factor in
company’s employ. Moses’s only known
descendant was a daughter named Polly, also born to a native woman.

Australia also had a prominent Norton father/son but from a later time. John Norton arrived from London in 1884 and
made his name in newspapers, acquiring The Truth in Sydney in
1896. He was a hugely controversial owner,
drunk and abusive at work, but highly successful. He
disinherited his only son Ezra. But after
his death in 1916, Ezra managed to
gain control of The Truth. He too
was a successful and combative newspaper man before selling the paper
in 1958.


Norton Miscellany

From Norville to Norton.  The Norton line was said to have begun with Norville who came over with
William the Conqueror in 1066 and was a sheriff or tax collector.  A document of his pedigree
from Charles Eliot
Norton’s work was published in The New
England Historical and
Genealogical Register

in 1859.  The article began:

“The genealogy
the Nortons of Sharpenhoe
Bedfordshire began with the
that married into the house
of Valois
and came into England with William the Conqueror and was his Constable.  His
a long
time after, assumed the English name of Norton, being the same in
that Noruile is in French.”

Seigneur de Norville who lived in the 12th
century was said to have been the sixth in descent from the earlier
Norville.  The line from him went as

  • Sr.
    de Norville who married the
    of Sir John Hardscoke
  • Sr.
    John Norton (Norville) who married Anna,
    the daughter
    Lord Grey of Ruthen
  • John
    Norton who
    made his home in
    Sharpenhoe, Bedfordshire
  • John
    Norton of Sharpenhoe who married
    Jane, daughter
    John Cowper,
    as his second wife
  • Richard Norton of Sharpenhoe
    who married Margery
  • and Margaret
    Norton who married
    Roger Conyers.

this Margaret Norton may not have been of the Sharpenhoe line.  There may have been another Norville-Norton
line, this one the descendants of a Norville who had been sent by
William the
Conqueror to put down a rebellion in Durham.
These Nortons became landowners in Yorkshire.

The Nortons and the Rising of the North.  When Queen Elizabeth executed two of the Norton family
after the failure of the Rising of the North in 1569 in which the
Nortons were implicated, it forced a division of the family into two
factions –
those loyal to the Queen and those who sought to replace the
daughter of Henry VIII and Protestant ruler with a Catholic and
legitimate heir
to the throne of England.

that stayed loyal to Queen Elizabeth rose to high political office
during the
American Revolution, culminating in Fletcher Norton, the Speaker of the
of Commons who was made Lord Grantley, Baron Markensfield.
His brother William had been a commander of
British ships in the West Indies during the Seven Years War and was
subsequently appointed Captain of the King’s Yacht.

family that fell to the Queen’s displeasure
fled to Spanish Flanders and was supported by the King and Queen of
Spain while
plans were made to secure a legitimate heir to the throne of England
(culminating in the failed Spanish Armada).
Other families in Yorkshire emigrated to the American colonies.

A Norton Family Dispute in Somerset.  Robert Norton, a prosperous mill-owner in Wells, died
in 1590 and his will was executed by nephew William.
But so controversial was his handling of the
will that Robert’s widow Joan and their children filed chancery suit
him.  The case dragged on for twenty two
years to the ruin of the estate.

The Star
Chamber Proceedings
reported as follows:

“The son John sickened
with great grief
anguish of leaving behind him a poor widow and eight
children in 1616
whereof your
subject is the eldest, but not one penny towards their relief and
maintenance other than the hopes of the said decree, by means of whose
his wife and children
have not only lost a careful provider
for them but also the
an estate which
the said Nicholas had, after the said William
the executor, worth at least 200 marks.”

This Nicholas Norton was the father of another
Nicholas who emigrated to America in 1640 and settled in Martha’s

George Norton’s Misbehavior.  George Norton moved to Wenham, Massachusetts in 1646
and kept a tavern there.  The church authorities did not
approve.  The misbehavior of George Norton was the principal matter of church
business at
Wenham during 1648 and 1649.

1649 he
was presented at Salem court for “lying and subborning witnesses to
scandalize the church of Wenham” and was required to pay 20s. for two
lies.  He was also to confess before the assembly met at Wenham in
meeting house as follows:

do confess
and acknowledge that I have sinfully endeavored to justify myself and
turbulent and factious agitations against the just and orderly
proceedings of
the church against me for my sin in that I have incessantly labored out
of the
pride of my heart to gather up witnesses of all sorts to testify
against the
dealing of the church with me seeking thereby to lay a scandal upon the
which cannot but greatly tend to the dishonor of God and the reproach

to make this
confession, he should sit one hour in the stocks.

Christopher Norton, A British Naval Officer in Virginia.  Christopher Norton (sometimes called Norden) went to sea in the
1720’s at the age of twelve and was forty years on the sea.  There was
family account of him chasing a pirate ship for five years and finally
up with it in heavy fog.  These pirates
had two ships, a small one which he sank and a larger one which his men
and after a long struggle overpowered.
Unfortunately most of the pirate treasure was on the small
vessel.  But Norton and his men took the
money that
was on the large vessel and divided it amongst themselves.

later retired and settled in Virginia.
His son John, born there in 1738, gave five sons to the
army. One of these died on an English prison ship in Charleston harbor;
was a sergeant in Washington’s bodyguard who was present at the
surrender of
and afterward was a field officer in the Indian
campaign in the Northwest.  Following the
war, two of these sons settled in South Carolina and two with their
father near
Lexington in Kentucky. 

Emperor Norton.  In 1849 Joseph Norton was lured, as were thousand others, to San Francisco by Gold Rush fever.  He
found no gold.  Indeed by 1856 he was
bankrupt.  Three years later this
eccentric man had a second incarnation.
He posted the following message in the San Francisco

“At the pre-emptory request of a
large majority of the citizens of these United States, I Joshua Norton,
formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last nine
years and
ten months past of San Francisco, California, declare and proclaim
myself the
Emperor of these United States, and in virtue of the authority thereby
in me
vested do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different
of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall of this city, on the 1st day
February next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing
laws of
the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is
laboring, and
thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our
and integrity.”

Norton I, Emperor of the United States.”

began and his fame, fanned by subsequent news releases in the Bulletin, spread.  People
loved him, politicians courted him,
restaurant owners claimed him as a patron, and he could ride free on
all of the
city’s ferries and streetcars.

a policeman made the mistake of arresting Norton for vagrancy.  The desk sergeant pointed out that Norton had
$4.75 and a key to his room at the Eureka Lodgings in his pockets. To
face, Norton was charged with lunacy instead.
Of course that charge did not stick and he was released with an
apology.  From then all police officers
would salute Norton when he passed them on the street.

reality Emperor Norton lived a life of
relative poverty.  On one rainy evening
in 1880 he slumped on the streets and died.
The next morning the headline in the San
Chronicle screamed: “Le Roi Est Mort.”  It was estimated that 10,000 people came to
see Emperor Norton lying in state at the morgue.


Norton Names

  • Thomas Norton was a prominent anti-Catholic Puritan, known in the 1570’s as the Rackmaster General.
  • Joseph Norton, known as Emperor Norton, was an eccentric
    self-publicizer who became famous in San Francisco in the latter part of the 19th century.   
  • James (Pa) Norton was a pioneer of the British
    motorcycle industry
    with his Norton bike
    which was first produced in 1902.   
  • William Norton, the son of a Dublin tram driver, was the leader of the Irish Labor Party from 1932 to 1960. 
  • Graham Norton, born Graham Walker,
    is a popular Irish-born TV chat-show host in Britain

Select Norton Numbers Today

  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 24,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Norton and Like Surnames.

The Anglo-Saxon word tun meaning “settlement” gave rise to many place-names with the suffix “-ton.”  And the place-name could become a surname describing someone who came from that place.  Sometimes the name was specific to just one location; but often the place-name could be found in various places and the surname would also crop up in a number of locations.  These are some of these place-name surnames that you can check out here.




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