Thompson/Thomson Surname Genealogy

This is a patronymic name meaning
“son of
Thomas,” mainly to be found in the north of England and in
Scotland.   The main spellings are Thompson and Thomson.
Why are there both Thompsons and Thomsons?  Some reckon that the
original spelling of the name was Thomson.  But in many areas it
was pronounced as Thompson.  So it was decided to add a “p” to the
written name to match what was heard.

Thompson/Thomson Resources on

England.  The earliest
record was a John Thompson who
appeared in the charters of Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire in 1349.
Thompson with a “p” has continued as a Yorkshire and north of England

The Thompsons of Scarborough were a prominent Yorkshire family,
starting with Sir Roger
Thompson in the 16th century.  A branch of this family, the Thompsons of
, prospered on the basis of Henry and Edward’s wine
importing business in York in the next century.  Henry acquired
Escrick Hall in north Yorkshire
in 1668 and developed it as an estate village.

One Durham family line has traced itself back to Christopher Thompson,
born in Darlington in the 1730’s. Robert Thompson, born in
Sunderland, founded the J.L. Thompson and Sons shipbuilding company
there in 1846.  The yard continued to build ships under the
founder’s descendants until 1986.

Scotland.  Thomson,
meaning “son of Thom,” is the more common spelling in Scotland.
The name is found mostly in central Scotland.  Early Thomson
appeared in Ayrshire.  John Thomson from
Ayrshire led
part of Bruce’s invading army in Ireland in 1318.  But there was
single common ancestor or lineage of the Thomsons that followed.

Some Thomsons were Border reivers on the Scottish/English border in
Eskdale north of
Carlisle.  Syn Thomson and young Archie Thomson were listed as
their leaders in 1587.  After 1603 many Border Thomsons fled to
the Ulster plantations.

Other Thomson Lowland families have been:

  • the Thomsons of Dumbarton.  This line began with William
    Thomson, born in 1375 who was recorded as the Collector of Customs in
    1410.   However, the line seemed to have died out around
  • the Thomsons of
    Corstophine near Edinburgh – the first of whom, Alexander, died
    fighting the English at Flodden Field in 1513.  His son later died
    the plague, but the line did continue.
  • and the Thomsons of Duddingston near Edinburgh as well.  Sir
    Thomas Thomson had acquired these lands in the 1630’s and his family
    held them for a short time.  The Rev. John
    Thomson was the minister of Duddingston kirk from 1805 to 1840.
    was a friend of Sir Walter Scott and a well-known landscape artist
    of his time.

Ireland.  Border
Thomsons moved to the plantations in Ulster in the 17th century, such
Samuel and Helen Thomson of Dumfries who arrived there in
1690.   Many of these Scots Irish Thomsons later moved again,
this time to America.  Included in this number were:

  • Matthew Thompson who left Donegal with his family in 1732 for
    Philadelphia, eventually settling in Virginia.  His eldest son John Thompson
    was a merchant seaman who was killed by pirates in 1757.
  • John Thompson, also from Donegal, who came to Pennsylvania’s
    Cumberland valley with his two brothers around 1740.  A descendant
    Thompson compiled notes on the various Scots Irish settlers in
    the Cumberland
  • and James Thomson with his wife Mary and family who left
    Londonderry in 1771 for what was then the American frontier in
    Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania.  By 1793 they were in Kentucky
    and later in Indiana.

Some Thomsons had become Thompsons by that time.  And Thompson
with a “p” is very much an Ulster name today.

America.  David Thomson,
a Scot although born in London, came to New England with his family in
1622 and was said to have been the first European to have set foot in
what is now New Hampshire.   David died in 1628 in what is
now called Thompsons Island in Massachusetts Bay.

William Thompson, a Catholic from Lancashire, was an early arrival in
Maryland in 1641.  Both he and his son William died young.
But his line continued in southern Maryland in Charles county.
The Thomson/Thompson
also showed many who were Scots Irish.  They
began arriving in the 1730’s, with the Scots Irish outpost in Augusta
county, Virginia being a favored destination.

.   Richard Thompson came to Halifax, Nova
Scotia from Yorkshire in 1774.  He was the first settler of
Oxford, Nova Scotia and died there in 1821 at the age of 77.

Three Thomson
came to Canada from Scotland in the 1780’s and
1790’s.  The line from the eldest son Archibald, based in Toronto,
led to the newspaper tycoon Roy Thomson.  David was
in 1796 the first settler of Scarborough, Ontario.  He was
followed there by his brother Andrew.

Other Scottish Thomsons in
Canada tended to change their spelling to Thompson.  Thompsons
Thomsons by
about four to one in Canada today.

Australia.  Andrew
Thompson was convicted of theft at Jedburgh on the Scottish borders in
1790 and transported to Australia.  After his pardon in 1798 he
settled at Green Hills along the Hawkesbury river in NSW and
prospered.  By 1806 he was the largest grain grower and possibly
the wealthiest settler in the colony.

Thomson/Thompson Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Thomson/Thompson Names

James Thomson was the early 18th
century Scottish poet who wrote Rule
J.J. Thomson was the British
physicist credited with the discovery of the electron.
Ben Thompson, born in
Yorkshire, was an Old West gunfighter and Austin city marshall in Texas.
Roy Thomson was the Canadian
newspaper tycoon who came to London in the 1960’s and bought The Sunday Times.
Hunter S. Thompson was the
irreverent Gonzo journalist and writer, well known for his intake of
mind-altering substances.
was the British
athlete who won the Olympic decathlon title twice.   Emma Thompson is a
distinguished English actress.

Select Thomson/Thompsons Today
  • 237,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 245,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 115,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


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